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Aiello told the AP the mediation would not have an effect on the NLRB complaint.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay recalled the last CBA negotiations in 2006, a deal the owners opted out of in 2008.

“Since the last time, things have broken off and guys have gone their separate ways,” Irsay said Thursday. “I remember that happened the last time and (then-commissioner) Paul Tagliabue ended up texting (union chief) Gene Upshaw and said, `Why don’t we get back together.’ So you never know when something positive can happen and something good can get done.

“I don’t have a strong anticipation something will get done before (March 3), but I think it’s possible.”

The biggest issue separating the sides is how to divide about $9 billion in annual revenues. Among the other significant points in negotiations: the owners’ push to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 while reducing the preseason by two games; a rookie wage scale; and benefits for retired players.

“Our ultimate goal is a new CBA,” Atallah wrote Thursday on his Twitter feed. “I will not discuss any details about the next set of negotiations. We are observing a strict media blackout.”

Some players, however, were commenting moments after the announcement.

“NFL and NFLPA agreeing to meet with a federal mediator is a real positive step,” Vikings tackle Bryant McKinnie said on his Twitter account. “Let’s see if he can get them to make actual progress.”

Added player agent Drew Rosenhaus: “Exciting news to see the NFLPA & the Owners talking again through the mediation process _ a productive step in the right direction!”

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AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington and Sports Writer Richard Rosenblatt in New York contributed to this report.