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NFL, union resume mediation for 4th day in row
WASHINGTON (AP) - Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch emerged with a positive outlook Monday after attending a fourth consecutive day of federally mediated negotiations between the NFL and the players’ union.
Batch and two other current players _ Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and New York Jets fullback Tony Richardson _ left Monday at 5 p.m., about six hours after the session began at the office of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. That U.S. government agency’s director, George Cohen, has been mediating the current round of talks.
The league and union agreed to try mediation after months of infrequent _ and sometimes contentious _ bargaining. The current labor deal expires at the end of the day March 3.
The union has said it believes team owners want to lock out the players as soon as the next day, which could threaten the 2011 season.
The sides met for about six hours on both Friday and Saturday. Cohen announced Thursday the groups agreed to the mediation, which is not binding but is meant as a way to spur progress. The plan calls for several days of negotiations with Cohen present.
“Any time you talk,” Batch said, “you have to feel better.”
Most members of both negotiating teams still were in the building when he left.
The NFL’s group began arriving at 8 a.m. Monday, and Commissioner Roger Goodell walked in alone shortly after 9 a.m. The NFL’s group included general counsel and lead labor negotiator Jeff Pash and outside lawyer Bob Batterman.
Batterman represented the NHL when it lost its entire 2004-05 season to a lockout.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith got to Cohen’s office at about 11 a.m., entering with Fujita. Former players Pete Kendall and Sean Morey also were part of the union contingent Monday, along with lawyers Richard Berthelsen and Jeffrey Kessler.
“We are working hard,” Pash said Sunday, “and we’re following the director’s playbook, and we’ll see what we come up with.”
The league and union went more than two months without any formal bargaining until Feb. 5, the day before the Super Bowl. The sides met again once the next week, then called off a second meeting that had been scheduled for the following day.
The most recent CBA was signed in 2006, but owners exercised an opt-out clause in 2008.
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.
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