SBD/April 18, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 38: Judge Adjourns Mediation Talks Until Tuesday Morning

U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan adjourned NFL mediation talks between owners and players until 10:00am CT tomorrow, "following nearly 10 hours of negotiations Thursday and another four Friday at the federal courthouse," according to Albert Breer of NFL.com. A source said that the "break is happening this early partly because of the sensitivity of the negotiations and the need for the judge to be methodical and deliberate." Another source said that "all parties appear to be 'serious' about these talks ordered by U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson and the potential consequences if they break down." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "led a league contingent" including Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson, Chiefs Chair Clark Hunt, Steelers President Art Rooney II and Falcons President Rich McKay. NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, Chiefs LB Mike Vrabel and free agent LB Ben Leber represented the players. Sources said that Thursday's 10-hour session "brought 'tough' negotiations, and some 'fence-mending' from prior events was necessary" (NFL.com, 4/15). Lawyers for the players said that Boylan "has given them homework and at least a half-dozen significant questions to answer when they return next week." Pro Football HOFer Carl Eller, who is representing retired players, "characterized the talks as 'productive' and added that the sides have made progress in their discussions" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/16). SI.com's Peter King writes, "I think the NFL-NFLPA talks were very quiet Thursday and Friday, the way they should be. They should be leakproof if the two sides are serious about getting something done" (SI.com, 4/18).

PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Saints QB Drew Brees said he is "excited" about the resurrection of mediation sessions between owners and players. Brees "hasn't taken part in the current phase of mediation, though he was on hand for several negotiating sessions in February and March." He said that he "likely will attend future sessions." Brees was "critical of the owners' 'media blitz' after the first round of mediation ended in early March with the players deciding to decertify their union and take the battle to federal court." Brees: "The minute that mediation ended, the NFL went on a 48-hour media blitz, talking about a lot of issues that were supposed to be confidential. And not only that, 95 percent of it was false information" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/16). Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald said that the NFL lockout "will end before any games are missed." Fitzgerald: "There is too much money at stake, too many jobs on the line." He added, "I think both sides are going to need to move a little on their points, but that's negotiations, that's bargaining" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/17).
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