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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The labor negotiating teams led by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and players’ association chief DeMaurice Smith met for a couple of hours Friday and will return to the table after the July 4 weekend.
The two sides held a 15-hour session Thursday that spilled over into the early hours Friday. After taking a six-hour break to catch some sleep, the sides met again but by late morning left the office building where talks were being held.
Smith and NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said the players and league would be back at it next week, declining further comment. Several people familiar with the situation said the negotiations would resume Tuesday in New York City. The people all spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because details of the talks are not being made public.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan oversaw this week’s discussions, which the past couple of days have included players representatives and owners.
Among the players were Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts and Brian Waters of the Kansas City Chiefs. The owners’ group included John Mara of the New York Giants, Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots.
Friday marked the fourth straight day of negotiations. The lockout began March 12, with the central issue being how to split revenues for the $9 billion business.
For weeks, owner and player representatives have been hopscotching around the country, holding unannounced meetings in spots ranging from Chicago to the Maryland shore.
This week began with optimism as Smith and Goodell and their staffs met privately Tuesday in Minnesota, then left the table to address incoming rookies at an orientation symposium in Florida on Wednesday morning, projecting an air of cooperation and respect.
But Friday’s session ended without a deal, and time is gradually becoming a factor in the process.
Training camps start in about three weeks, with the preseason-opening Hall of Fame game scheduled Aug. 7 between the Bears and Cardinals.
There also is the wild card of a pending federal appeals court ruling in the players’ antitrust suit against the league, which was filed in Minneapolis and prompted Boylan’s involvement as a mediator. One judge has warned that neither side will like the 8th Circuit’s decision on the legality of the lockout, but a faction on the players’ side believes it is worth waiting on the court’s ruling.
The latest talks came as the NBA began its own lockout after it failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with its players. It is believed to be only the second time that two of the main leagues have been shut down simultaneously by labor problems. The NHL and MLB were idle from October 1994 through mid-January 1995.
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