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 Wednesday 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.
“Probably a sense of urgency with the season just around the corner,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said Wednesday. “The general understanding from everybody is that if we don’t have something done by July it would be hard to start on time.”
Previous “secret” meetings have taken place in Chicago and New York. Such sessions have been critical in past NFL negotiations, dating to the 1980s.
“I know that we’ve been talking pretty extensively over the last few weeks,” Brees added. “It seems like things are moving in the right direction, which is very positive. It’s what we always hoped for as players because obviously we’re getting to crunch-time here.”
Movement toward an agreement also 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.
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, although the Minnesota Vikings have said they could delay until July 18 an announcement on whether they will train at their usual site in Mankato.
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, and some players have not collected workout bonuses. At least seven teams have instituted pay cuts or furloughs of employees who are not players.
Plus, it could all come crashing down if one side decides compromise is not in its interest.
“Much can still go wrong — every negotiating session is unique to itself,” said Don Yee, who represents Tom Brady and is an adjunct law professor at USC. “Just because one day was good doesn’t mean the next day will be, too.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)