NFL commish, owners back at bargaining table with players
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 9:06 pm
NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners are meeting with NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith and a group of players for a second straight day in Maryland.
A person with knowledge of the talks tells The Associated Press that the negotiations have continued this morning and they include lawyers for both sides.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the meeting are not being made public.
On Tuesday, several people familiar with the talks told the AP that significant progress was being made toward ending the owners’ lockout of the players, now in its fourth month.
There is even optimism that a new collective bargaining agreement could be reached by early July, allowing training camps to open on time later next month.
Recent progress in labor talks between the league and players has sparked a new sense of optimism, and team owners have been told to be ready to extend their one-day meetings in Chicago next week.
A person with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press that finalizing an agreement by next week’s owners’ meetings is unlikely.
But a framework for a new collective bargaining deal could be presented in Chicago, with further tweaking extending the work stoppage until the end of the month.
A new CBA could be in place before the July 4th weekend, the person added, speaking on condition of anonymity because details of the meeting are not being made public.
Another person familiar with the talks told the AP that the owners and players are “headed in the right direction” and that lawyers “are back in the room” after being excluded from sessions the past two weeks.
Previous “secret” meetings have taken place in Chicago and New York. Such sessions have been critical in past NFL negotiations, dating back to the 1980s.
Still, it would be premature to predict that lockout is about to end, the people familiar with the talks told the AP.
Yet the atmosphere of negotiations has been more positive than it was previously, creating “a sense of movement,” they said.
That movement toward an agreement might be in both sides’ best interest after a federal appeals court judge warned the owners and players they might not like the upcoming decisions in legal actions sparked by the lockout.
Indeed, the court could delay any rulings if a new CBA appears to be near.
On hand at the meetings were NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith; several owners, including the Giants’ John Mara and the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones; and a large group of players that includes NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, Jeff Saturday, Mike Vrabel, Tony Richardson and Domonique Foxworth.
Although no deadlines have been set for the opening of training camps, the 32 teams soon must decide whether to delay them, particularly those clubs that stage a portion of camp out of town.
Settling before July 4 almost certainly would provide for full training camps at previously planned locations.
First would come a free agency period, including the signing of undrafted rookies, and probably minicamps, which already have been canceled by the lockout that began March 12.
The lockout also has cost the league and some teams advertising and sponsorship money.
Additionally, some NFL employees have had their salaries trimmed by 12 percent since April, and seven teams have instituted pay cuts or furloughs of workers outside the huddle since the owners’ lockout of players began March 12, The Associated Press has found in interviews around the league.
Miami, Buffalo, the New York Jets, Kansas City, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Arizona are the teams known to have slashed payroll.
In all, the number of affected employees who work for either the clubs or the league is likely more than 100.
Count Goodell and Jeff Pash, the NFL’s lead labor negotiator, among them. Their salaries have been reduced to $1 each while the league’s labor impasse is unresolved.