NFL owners and players are meeting Tuesday on Maryland's eastern shore in an effort to end the 91-day lockout as soon as possible, according to reports from NFL.com and ESPN.
This is the third time this month the two sides have convened in an undisclosed location to make progress towards a new collective bargaining agreement (and this time, with lawyers). Last Friday, for the first time since the lockout began in March, hopes seemed high for a speedy resolution to a labor dispute that once appeared as if it could go on indefinitely.
"NFL owners have a one-day meeting scheduled in suburban Chicago next Tuesday, and they are planning to meet once a month until the situation is resolved," NFL.com's Albert Breer reported Tuesday. "A memo went out to owners asking that they keep their schedules for next week flexible, in case the June 21 meeting spills into Tuesday night or even Wednesday."
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ESPN's Chris Mortensen writes that "Sources have characterized the owners and players as being in a 'deal-making mode' and hope to make significant progress over the next two or three days."
The NFL estimates that canceling the preseason could cost upwards of $1 billion, which means that the longer the lockout drags on, the more likely it is that the owners will be in danger of losing serious dough. Sources tell Breer that "internal deadlines to have some semblance of a 'normal' preseason with the games preserved sit on or around July 15." That gives both parties a month to sort things out.
More background on Tuesday's gathering, via the Associated Press:
A person with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press 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. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the meeting are not being made public.The AP reports that 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, were all on hand at the meeting.
Two other people familiar with the talks say a framework for a new collective bargaining agreement could be in place before the owners gather next Tuesday. ... 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.
For the first time all spring there is much to be optimistic about. Not only are the owners and players willing to work together, they're doing it now, well before deadlines could legitimately imperil a 2011 season.
If the lockout ends in the coming weeks, Goodell, who was roundly booed at the April draft, will have suddenly saved his legacy. Because in the end, all fans want is football. They don't much care how we get to that point.
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