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Lawyers in NFL labor dispute meet

July 12, 2011

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— Less than two weeks before some training camps are scheduled to open, the NFL remains in labor limbo, with only the lawyers for both sides meeting.

Attorneys met Monday in New York to clarify language from previous discussions and will do so again today. Originally, owners and players were to get together for more negotiations today, but now won’t do so before Wednesday.

Several issues are close to resolution, the most significant being the split of total revenues between owners and players.

But snags involving a rookie wage scale, free agency rules and benefits for retired players have slowed the process. While the league’s negotiators hope they can present a new collective bargaining agreement to all the owners at their July 21 meeting in Atlanta, not striking a deal before then figures to cause postponement of the start of training camps, and probably cancellation of the Hall of Fame game Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio.

The St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears are set to play in that game, and both teams planned to open training camp next week.

The NFL would need about a week to get the new deal ratified and in place, meaning teams couldn’t start signing free agents or draftees, make trades or begin workouts until the end of the month. That would jeopardize the first weekend of exhibition games, Aug. 11-15, at a cost of upward of $60 million in overall revenues.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners will negotiate with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and members of the players’ executive board later this week. Extensive negotiations Thursday and Friday seemed promising, but the parties were unable to close the gap on the rookie wage scale — a subject that wasn’t nearly as contentious in earlier sessions. At issue is how many first-round picks would fall under the wage scale and the length of contracts teams could offer those rookies.

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