Goodell, Smith meeting without players, owners

Published 1:49 am Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith opened four days of labor talks in Minnesota on Tuesday, getting together without players or owners in the room.

Three people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that the two power brokers and staff members resumed negotiations aimed at ending a lockout now in its fourth month. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because no labor developments are being made public.

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People familiar with the situation said the executive committee of the players’ association planned a conference call later Tuesday to discuss the negotiations. first reported that Goodell and Smith were meeting.

Smith planned to go to Florida by Wednesday morning to attend a symposium for rookies in Bradenton. The people told the AP that the two sides were planning to meet through Friday.

The traditional start of training camp is just three weeks away and Chicago and St. Louis are scheduled to play the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 7. Yet Detroit Lions defensive end Lawrence Jackson said he believes there still isn’t enough urgency to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement — not yet.

“From a business perspective, nobody is losing anything right now,” Jackson said at a youth sports camp in Walled Lake, Mich. “The owners haven’t had to pay offseason bonuses — so they’re making interest on the money they’re not spending — and most of the players aren’t used to getting paid until we start training camp in late July. Until then, I don’t think we’re missing much.”

The lockout began on March 12, and players have not been allowed to train at team facilities or contact their coaches, with the exception of a few days in April when the lockout was briefly lifted.

Players on several teams have practiced on their own, trying to keep in football shape so they’ll be prepared to get back to business on the field whenever the labor impasse ends.

The key issue in the dispute is how to divide revenues after the league took in about $9.3 billion last year.

Previous “secret meetings” have taken place in suburban Chicago, New York, the Maryland shore and last week in Hull, Mass., south of Boston. The federal courts in Minneapolis are familiar ground for both sides, since the current collective bargaining system was put together under court oversight here and it’s where an antitrust lawsuit filed by players against the league is still pending.

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said he believes progress is being made.

“The main thing is that they’re talking and being able to interact with each other,” he said. “There was a point in time where there was nothing being said and we were just sitting back. Now, there’s some interaction and it looks like there’s some positive light at the end of the tunnel. We’re looking forward to getting it done. I’m ready to get back on the field.”