- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A person familiar with the situation says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and players’ boss DeMaurice Smith are back in Minnesota for labor talks as they try to put pro football back in business.

The person says that after Goodell and Smith addressed NFL rookies in Florida on Wednesday morning, they returned north to resume negotiations. The latest round of discussions in the four-month-old lockout began Tuesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the meetings have not been made public.

Owners and players are seeking a deal that would divide revenues and guide league activities for years to come. Talks have been scheduled through Friday. Owners and players aren’t present this time around _ instead, the sessions involve Goodell, Smith and their staffs.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) _ NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and players’ union chief DeMaurice Smith took questions Wednesday at a symposium for NFL rookies, who wanted to know the same thing as everyone else unhappy about the league’s labor dispute.

When is it going to end?

Goodell and Smith didn’t say. But the union took their joint appearance as a positive sign.

“That’s really the significance of this,” NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said. “There’s a lockout happening now, but we’ve got to look forward and consider the necessity to have a positive working relationship with the league.”

The commissioner and his counterpart in negotiations met in Minneapolis before flying together to Sarasota on Tuesday night. After a joint breakfast Wednesday, they talked for an hour with 155 rookies.

“We were taking a break (from negotiations) because we felt it was important to be down here with the players,” Goodell said. “This is an important few days. We’re going to get back to work.”

He then climbed into the back seat of an SUV alongside Smith, and they were soon flying back to Minnesota. Talks are scheduled there through Friday, raising hopes a new collective bargaining agreement can be worked out so the season can proceed as planned, with training camps scheduled to open in about three weeks.

The fifth set of “secret” negotiations involve Goodell, Smith and their staffs, but no owners or players. Such high-level meetings have been key to previous labor agreements, particularly when the late Gene Upshaw ran the players’ association and Paul Tagliabue was commissioner.

Goodell and Smith did not seem to have the same kind of rapport early in the negotiations, but they’ve been spending more time together in recent weeks.

“It’s big for them to come together. I thought that was pretty cool,” said Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, one of 23 first-round picks attending the symposium. “It looks like they have a pretty good relationship.”

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