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Posted at 7:40 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

NFL mediation continues and owners will meet near Dulles

By Cindy Boren
44
days
19
hours
31
min.
12
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Updated at 2:08 p.m.

The mediation session ended moments ago and owners who attended have headed to Chantilly, Va., for a meeting with other owners.

Jeff Pash, lead negotiator for the NFL, was asked whether officials would return for further meetings with the mediator tonight and answered "if the mediator asks," according to the NFL Network's Albert Breer. Pash added that the mediator hasn't asked and Breer tweeted that it "looks like sides will return" to mediation Thursday.

Updated at 11:15 a.m.

All the members of the owners' labor committee have arrived for this morning's session with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Present with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are co-chairs Jerry Richardson (Panthers) and Pat Bowlen (Broncos) and members Art Rooney of the Steelers, Clark Hunt of the Chiefs, Mark Murphy of the Packers, John Mara of the Giants, Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, Dean Spanos of the Chargers, Mike Brown of the Bengals and Robert Kraft of the Patriots.

"So far, obviously, we haven't been successful," Richardson told ESPN as he entered the meeting, "but we're optimistic in due time we will."

As for whether his presence indicated any significant movement, Richardson said: "We have a league meeting, and we decided it would be a good idea for our full committee to meet with the mediation process this morning. Our objective, of course, is to negotiate a fair agreement for the players and the teams."

The NFL's lead negotiator, Jeff Pash, told reporters before the meeting that there is a chance that the clock could be stopped and negotiations could continue. "We have to see where we are," Pash said, via ESPN. "We've said that's an option [all along]. We're not taking anything off the table.

Filed at 7:40 a.m.

NFL and NFL Players Association representatives will resume mediation meetings again this morning, breaking in time for NFL executives to head to a Dulles Airport meeting with owners that is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

A long, long day may well lie ahead because Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that a resumption of mediation after the meeting with owners "has not been ruled out but isn't officially scheduled." Present this morning were all the members of the

What's different about today's talks, after Tuesday's meetings? For one thing, the countdown to expiration of the collective bargaining agreement is closer (11:59 p.m. Thursday), barring a decision by both sides to extend it. After that, will the NFL lockout players? Will the union decertify?

Today's meetings will be the first since U.S. District Court Judge David Doty issued a ruling Tuesday night in favor of the players' union in a complaint over the owners' $4 billion in annual television revenue. The union argues that the money, which would continue flowing to owners during a work stoppage, amounts to a lockout fund. Overturning a ruling by special master Stephen Burbank, who oversees disputes concerning the collective bargaining agreement, Doty wrote that he would hold a hearing to consider damages and other remedies. The union has asked that the money be withheld from owners if players are locked out.

The NFL will appeal the ruling. "The decision was frankly not unexpected," Pash said, via MSNBC's Darren Rovell, "and so it doesn't alter our plan even one iota."

While the decision gives the NFLPA some leverage, this whole process is only at the first step of what many expect to be a marathon. Andrew Brandt, a former NFL executive and ESPN's NFL business analyst, writes at National Football Post that "it is important to not gloat and focus on the end game: finding common ground with the NFL towards an agreement."

(In an interesting aside in his article, entitled "The Wrath of Doty Persists" Brandt writes of Doty:

The NFL cannot be rid of Judge Doty's oversight of the CBA fast enough. Having governed the CBA since its inception with the Reggie White settlement in 1993, Doty has been extremely player-friendly in his rulings. Doty's ruling against the Atlanta Falcons last year that Michael Vick could keep his $20 million bonus despite his dog fighting activities was especially galling to management. The wrath of Doty persists.
The NFL would dearly like to end Doty's involvement in its matters, whether through agreement with the union or by letting the CBA expire Friday towards a new method of oversight.
We will see.)

The 2011 season hangs in the balance and, according to one scenario, could do so for some time. Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal sees mid-November as the drop-dead point for an eight-game season, which, according to Charley Casserly, is the minimum the league probably would need. Add to that three weeks of preseason/preparation and Futterman arrives at mid-November or bust.

If Buzz Bissinger had his way, the whole process would never have gotten to this point.

If an NFL owner doesn't like what is happening, the recourse is simple--sell the team at an enormous profit. Otherwise stop the Mother Teresa vow of poverty and pay the players what they are worth.now.

Seattle's Chester Pitts is one of the players attending the mediation meetings and, via Don Banks of SI.com, he spoke generally of the talks (both sides have agreed not to say anything):

Pitts: "The fans should know that both parties are hammering away at it, and really trying to get a deal done."less than a minute ago via OpenBeak

Pitts on tone: "It's 2 groups doing business. The tone, none of that matters. It's business. That's the approach. That's the expectation.''less than a minute ago via OpenBeak

By Cindy Boren  | March 2, 2011; 7:40 AM ET
Categories:  NFL  
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