- Associated Press - Thursday, April 7, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) - A lawyer representing Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and other players suing the NFL wrote to the judge handling the case to say their side is willing to engage in mediation overseen by the federal court in Minnesota.

Thursday’s letter to U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson comes a day after a hearing in St. Paul, Minn., at which she recommended court-supervised talks, saying such negotiations should take place at “not the players’ table, not the league’s table, but a neutral table, if you will.”

“As class counsel on behalf of the Brady class, we think this is an excellent suggestion and are prepared to engage in such mediation without delay,” attorney Barbara Berens wrote to Nelson. “Our agreement is, of course, contingent on the NFL defendants’ agreement that they will not attempt to use this, our willingness to mediate, against the Brady class in some way, for example by arguing that such mediation efforts constitute ‘collective bargaining’ or otherwise arise out of a ‘labor relationship.’”

Two people familiar with the case told The Associated Press that the NFL sent its own letter Thursday to lawyers for the players. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal the letter’s contents.

One person told the AP the letter proposed resuming talks with federal mediator George Cohen, who oversaw 16 days of negotiations in February and March that eventually broke off, allowing the old collective bargaining agreement to expire. The union dissolved itself, saying it no longer represented players in bargaining under labor law, which allowed them to sue the league under antitrust law. Owners locked out the players, creating the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.

The NFL’s letter to players Thursday proposed negotiations with owner involvement, the person said, adding that players would be given assurances the discussions wouldn’t compromise their legal position.

Essentially, each side offered to meet for talks in a setting the other wouldn’t be thrilled about. Since filing suit in Minnesota on March 11, the players repeatedly have said they only are interested in meeting with the league to discuss settling the litigation. And since the lockout began at midnight later that night, the NFL repeatedly has said it only is interested in returning to mediated bargaining.


AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minnesota contributed to this report.

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