INDIANAPOLIS — Colts center Jeff Saturday insists the NFL Players Association and league owners can still make a deal.
It's just going to take patience, pressure and a little less posturing from everyone.
"My hope is that everybody puts their egos down to the side and we get it dialed in," said Saturday, a four-time Pro Bowler and the Colts' longtime player rep. "I'm hoping there's pressure as fans and as people begin to say, 'Let's move this thing forward; we're tired of hearing about it,' that it brings more people to the table ready to get it done."
Saturday has already seen ramifications from the uncertain labor future.
Three of his Pro Bowl teammates – safety Antoine Bethea, defensive end Robert Mathis and receiver Reggie Wayne – skipped their third straight practices Sunday.
Bethea has not yet signed the team's $2.521 million one-year deal, which means he is not required to participate in the offseason workouts.
But Mathis and Wayne skipped the entire weekend because they want new contracts. Both players have two years left on the current deals, and the uncertain labor future looms as the biggest impediment for the defending AFC champs to work something out with two of their most important players.
A day earlier, Colts president Bill Polian said through a team spokesman he had explained to the agents for Mathis and Wayne that the Colts were reluctant to renegotiate because they didn't know how to structure them under a collective bargaining agreement that is not in place.
"We look at it as next year, and they have to plan for two, three and four years," he said on the final day of Indy's mandatory three-day minicamp. "I think both sides have their opinion, but you know me, I'm going to side with the players 100 percent of the time."
The key for everybody is getting a new CBA done.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has repeatedly said he expects owners to lock out players before the start of the 2011 season, once describing the chances of a lockout as 14 on a scale of one to 10.
Saturday thinks the pressure of a deadline, along with fans' complaints, will eventually force both sides to make a deal.
But it could take right up until the final moments.
"I think all the guys on the executive committee and involved in the NFLPA have a good attitude about it. Guys want to get it done," Saturday said. "We've just got to get it done. I feel like everybody's just like, 'Why are we negotiating now? What's the hurry? We have until next March. Let's just go play this season and see who balks first, who gets scared first.' I think all of us are going to wait until the end and then we'll have to get it done in a short amount of time. I think the best work gets done then."