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Owners meet with secretly with Goodell, Smith ..
Updated Jun 2, 2011 1:04 PM ET
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and other union officials are meeting Thursday with several NFL owners and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as the sides hope to forge progress on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The meetings began in secret Tuesday in Chicago, but leaked to the media Wednesday night as the sides move toward Friday's key appeals court hearing. According to NFL.com, the talks continued Thursday morning and will wrap up sometime in the afternoon.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly was among the group that flew in and out of DuPage Airport, a small airfield that handles primarily private jets near Chicago.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, Giants co-owner John Mara and Steelers owner Dan Rooney are at the talks, according to the NFL Network.
Several players attended the meeting as well, including Mike Vrabel and Jeff Saturday, who have been regulars at negotiating sessions.
According to ESPN, the gathering was scheduled so quietly that many of the other NFL owners did not know about it.
It is the first time in weeks that the two sides have met face-to-face, and the first confirmed talks since the Super Bowl to be held without a mediator. US Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan attended the talks, but is not acting in his usual role as mediator.
The sides will meet in court on Friday in St. Louis, where the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments about whether the NFL can continue its player lockout. A final judgment on the matter is not expected until at least late June.
The appeals court issued a stay on a federal judge's ruling that lifted the lockout in late April.
Mediation between the two sides is expected to resume June 7. Previous mediation sessions held during the nearly three-month-old lockout have yielded little progress.
At the last session last month, Boylan ordered the sides to return with proposals for a new labor agreement.
Does this represent a glimmer of hope, or is this merely both sides responding to Boylan's mandate?
Re: Owners meet with secretly with Goodell, Smith ..
I think there is a glimmer of hope here. The hearing is going to change the status quo, likely in the league's favor. The NFLPA is ultimately going to have to stop playing the litigation game and come to the table. If both sides are ready to compromise, a deal can be reached.
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