There's been plenty of name calling and wild accusations since talks broke off last week between the NFL and the players association, and none of it has helped to bring the two sides back to negotiating table. So on Thursday, Commissioner Roger Goodell took his case directly to the players.
According to Pro Football Talk, which obtained a copy of a letter Goodell sent to every player (with copies sent to every agent), the commissioner attempted to explain the last offer the league made to the NFL Players Association, which has since decertified.
Goodell wrote: "We want you to understand the offer that we made to the NFLPA. The proposal was made to avoid a work stoppage. Each passing day puts our game and our shared economics further at risk. We believe the offer presented a strong and fair basis for continuing negotiations, allowing the new league year and free agency to begin, and growing our game in the years to come."
Among the elements the league proposed were: maximum salary and benefits per team of $141 million per club in 2011, with maximum salary and benefits per team of $161 million in 2014; free agency for players with four or more accrued season; reduced draft-choice compensation for restricted free agents; extensive changes in offseason workouts; reduction of preseason and regular-season padded practices; increased days off; retention of the 16-game season through 2012 with no increase to 18 games without the players' agreement; expanded injury guarantees, with up to $1 million in the year after an injury occurs; continuing medical coverage for life; immediate increases in pension for pre-1993 players; a new rookie wage scale that would make $300 million per draft class available for veteran pay and player benefits; and external arbitration of all drug and steroids appeals.
Goodell encouraged players to urge the union to return to the bargaining table in order to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. He said the owners "are prepared to negotiate a full agreement that would incorporate these features and other progressive changes that would benefits players, clubs, and fans. Only through collective bargaining will we reach that kind of agreement. Our goal is to make our league even better than it is today, with the benefits shared by all of us."
The upshot: Goodell clearly is hoping players will insist the association gets back to talking rather than posturing – and the sooner the better.
Of course, as Pro Football Talk points out, it could also anger union leadership. And if it does, getting back to the table will be tougher than ever.