NEW YORK (AP) - NFL teams owners and players’ association leaders met for another long negotiating session Thursday, hoping to finally break the labor lockout that has now lasted more than 16 weeks.
Players involved in a lawsuit against the league also had a regularly scheduled conference call, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the two sides are not announcing details of the labor talks, said the call featured a discussion of the proposals that have been presented regarding free agency.
The players’ group at the meeting included NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, while the NFL owners were represented by Robert Kraft of the Patriots, John Mara of the New York Giants and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan, who has served as a mediator between the two sides, also was involved. He is scheduled to go on vacation Saturday, but talks are expected to continue in his absence.
Lawyers for both sides gathered on Tuesday and Wednesday to put together some of the paperwork that will be needed when a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement is struck.
Players and owners have been holding meetings around the country over the last several weeks, with pressure mounting to make a deal. A major sticking point has been how to divide revenues for a $9 billion business that is easily the most popular professional sports league in America.
Some training camps are set to open in less than three weeks and the first exhibition game, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, is Aug. 7. Hall of Fame president Steve Perry has said the plan now is that the game will go on as scheduled.
The Buffalo Bills still appear on track for holding training camp at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester. Todd Harrison, a faculty member who works with the Bills in overseeing camp, said school officials, in consultation with the Bills, “continue moving forward” with their plans.
The school issued an email invitation Thursday to training camp staff to attend an annual orientation session on July 18, but Harrison cautioned “not to read too much into that as a signal the Bills are coming.” Harrison said organizers need to be proactive in training staff should a labor agreement be reached next week. The pressure on players and owners to reach a deal was turned up another notch by the New York attorney general’s office, which has launched an investigation into whether the lockout violates state antitrust laws. The players’ lawsuit, filed in federal court in Minnesota, also is an antitrust case.
New York Assistant Attorney General Richard Schwartz said in a letter to Goodell this week that the lockout will “inflict significant economic injuries statewide.” The New York Jets have canceled their planned training camp in the small upstate city of Cortland, he noted.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.
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