Pressure increases in NFL labor meetings


NFL: Wednesday’s notebook

Barry Wilner/ Associated Press

New York— Negotiations completed Wednesday and likely for the week, as NFL owners are setting sights on their upcoming meeting in Chicago.

Many players are looking beyond then — with optimism — toward getting back to work.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners completed two days of talks with Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith and a group of players in Maryland.

A person with knowledge of the negotiations told the Associated Press the two sides have been making progress at several such meetings in the last three weeks.

The person, who spoke anonymously because details of the discussions aren’t supposed to be made public, also said a new collective bargaining agreement is not imminent.

Nonetheless, several players expressed confidence a new agreement will be reached soon and training camps will open on time in late July.

“I know that we’ve been talking pretty extensively over the last few weeks,” said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, one of 10 players whose names are on an antitrust lawsuit against the league. “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.”

Close enough to it.

Although no deadlines have been set for the opening of camps, officials from the 32 teams soon must decide whether to delay them, particularly those clubs that stage a portion of camp out of town.

Settling early in July almost certainly would provide for full training camps at previously planned locations, although Vikings officials have said they could delay until July 18 an announcement on whether they will train at their usual site in Mankato.

“I think everyone kind of has that feeling, that this thing’s starting to end,” said Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth, the team’s player representative. “I feel like that’s the attitude that everybody has, and you can see everybody preparing that way.

“When you look at the timeline for both sides, it starts to get real serious around this time.”

The lockout is in its fourth month.

During that time, there have been mediation sessions, court actions in Minnesota and Missouri, and clandestine meetings between Goodell and Smith, a handful of owners and players.

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