- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

NEW YORK  — Whether they are meeting in secret locations or in the middle of Times Square at rush hour, talks between NFL owners and players are a good sign.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has been saying that since the lockout began March 12. Players, agents and lawyers familiar with the negotiating process second the notion.

Both sides met Wednesday for a second straight day in New York, with Judge Arthur Boylan joining Goodell and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith. It was the second time this week that the sides got together. Last week, they met twice near Chicago.

Also on hand were five team owners and five players. That’s a critical component for reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.

“Having meetings on a regular basis is not nearly as important as having productive talks,” said agent Ben Dogra, whose clients include Patrick Willis and Sam Bradford. “If having productive talks encompasses meeting on a regular basis, then it is a good for them to meet as often as possible.”

Both sides seem ready to do that as they await a ruling about the legality of the lockout from the federal appeals court in St. Louis. The factions aren’t due back in court until August. On Wednesday, Judge Susan Nelson moved up a hearing for the league’s motion to dismiss the players’ antitrust suit from Sept. 12 to Aug. 29 - nine days before the regular season is scheduled to begin.

“NFL owners and players continue to be engaged in confidential discussions before Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan,” the two sides said in a joint statement. “Both sides met again this week as part of ongoing court mediation. Those discussions are expected to continue.”