Players, NFL begin labor talks

Published 12:43 am Thursday, June 4, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL and its players’ union started Wednesday on a long road that they hope can avoid a work stoppage in 2011, when the current labor contract expires.

The talks began in New York with commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the new executive director of the NFL Players Association, both present.

They were mainly about procedural issues rather than substantive ones. One early subject of contention: the union’s demand the NFL teams open their books and the league’s position that the union already has all the relevant financial information.

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‘‘We are focused on getting an agreement that works for the long term,’’ Goodell said Monday during a function at Giants Stadium.

‘‘We’re not specifically setting any deadlines or dates. Our issue is we know we have two more years of football. We would like to have an agreement that works for everybody in that period of time. If it takes up to the final moment, it takes up to the final moment.’’

The original agreement was to last through 2013, but the owners opted out in May 2008, citing economic problems that make the nearly 60 percent of revenues that go to the players excessive. Many teams as well as the league office have since laid off employees.