HULL, MA (AP) – More negotiations between NFL owners and players are on the way.
Two people familiar with the talks told The Associated Press on Friday that the sides will resume negotiations early next week at an undisclosed site. The lockout is deep into its fourth month, and this will be the fifth set of “secret” meetings.
Those familiar with the negotiations spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are supposed to be confidential.
While each side has acknowledged progress, a new collective bargaining agreement is not imminent. One of those knowledgeable about the talks said conference calls are being set up to discuss some topics, but not the major issue of splitting revenues. The person says that is being negotiated “face to face.”
The sides completed two days of talks at a beachfront resort in Hull, Mass., on Thursday. On hand were NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, owners John Mara of the New York Giants, Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers, Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Dean Spanos of the San Diego Chargers.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was there along with several players, including Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Richardson of the New York Jets and Domonique Foxworth of the Baltimore Ravens.
“Someone asked me whether I was optimistic,” Smith said. “I think we’re both optimistic when we have the right people in the room. We know we’re talking about the right issues and that we’re working hard to get it done.”
Previous meetings took place in suburban Chicago, New York and the Maryland shore.
Once the owners and players can agree on how to divide revenues — $9.3 billion last year — other issues such as a rookie wage scale, benefits for retired players, and player health and safety could fall in line quickly. Still, it’s almost July, and training camps are scheduled to open late next month. The first preseason game is Aug. 7 at Canton, Ohio.
This week, two teams – the Ravens and Jets, announced they would train at their regular-season facilities and not out of town. Baltimore canceled its camp at Winchester, Md., and New York did the same for Cortland, N.Y.
“With all the variables presented by this unique offseason, we felt it was best for the Jets that we hold our training camp here at our practice facility,” general manager Mike Tannenbaum said Friday.
Also this week, league owners were briefed on a plan that would give the players just under 50 percent of total income. An off-the-top expense credit of about $1 billion that went to the owners would be eliminated.
“It is extremely complicated, it requires a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” Smith said. “But we’re committed to getting something done and we’re going to keep working at it.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)