Wednesday, July 20, 2011

NFL teams, players get ready to kick off flurry of activity

Judge expected in N.Y. for NFL labour talks

Players' Association executive board and owners are meeting in hopes of resolving a lockout that began in March.
Players' Association executive board and owners are meeting in hopes of resolving a lockout that began in March.
Former Tennessee Titans center and NFL Players Association President Kevin Mowae, right, enters a Manhattan law office, Friday, July 8, 2011, in New York. Members of the NFL Players' Association executive board and owners are meeting in hopes of resolving a lockout that began in March. Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth is at left. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano).
Talks to end the NFL lockout will resume with the court-appointed mediator in New York on Monday and could continue through Thursday, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.
The person spoke to the AP on Sunday on condition of anonymity, because the discussions are supposed to remain confidential.
The mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, originally had ordered representatives of the league's owners and players to meet with him Tuesday in Minneapolis. Now Boylan is expected to arrive in New York on Monday to oversee talks aimed at ending the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.
The owners have a special meeting set for Thursday in Atlanta, where they potentially could ratify a new deal -- if one is reached by then. Any agreement also must be voted on by groups of players, including the named plaintiffs in a federal antitrust suit against the league, and the NFL Players Association's 32 team representatives.
More than four months into the lockout, owners and players have made significant progress on the framework of an agreement. But re-establishing the union and figuring out what it will take for nine NFL players -- including star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees -- to settle that antitrust suit are among key issues blocking a deal to end the lockout, people familiar with the negotiations told the AP on condition of anonymity.
The unresolved matters also include how the TV networks case, in which the players accused the owners of setting up "lockout insurance," will be settled.
Among the parts mostly squared away following significant progress last week:
  • how the more than US$9 billion in annual league revenues will be divided;
  • a rookie salary system;
  • free agency rules;
  • a cap of about $120 million for player salaries in 2011, with about another $20 million in benefits.
The lockout began March 12, when negotiations broke down and the old collective bargaining agreement expired. The NFLPA announced it was dissolving itself and would no longer be a union that could bargain for all players under labour law, instead saying it was now a trade association. That allowed players to take their chances against the NFL in federal court under antitrust law.
There is a possibility that the sides will be able to put together a tentative agreement in principle in time to keep the preseason completely intact. The exhibition opener is scheduled to be the Hall of Fame game between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears on Aug. 7, and as of Sunday, no preseason games had been cancelled.
Members of the legal and financial teams for the two groups met in New York on Saturday, while NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith spoke with each other. The larger negotiating teams that gathered for more than 30 hours of intensive face-to-face talks spread across Wednesday through Friday -- including owners and current or former players -- did not meet Saturday.More...

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