Sources: NFL, players talking again

Updated: June 15, 2011, 9:24 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The lead negotiating teams for the NFL and NFL Players Association have gathered Tuesday at an undisclosed location in the Washington, D.C., area in an effort to end the 91-day lockout. It's the third consecutive week the sides have met for "secret" talks.

Both sides remain guardedly optimistic. Sources characterized the owners and players as being in a "deal-making mode" and hope to make significant progress over the next two or three days, ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen reported.

The major topic this week is the percentage that goes to players, a source told ESPN.com's John Clayton. Players have asked for 50 percent of all revenue but are willing to accept $141 million player costs per team, which would equate to roughly 48.5 percent of a $9.3 billion revenue projection. The players have proposed having a "pegged" cap that would have fixed increases. By 2014, a team's player cost would be $161 million.

For the players to accept that, owners would have to reset the excess revenue in their formula. According to a source, the owners' reset has come in at 44 percent and players would have a hard time selling anything less than 48 percent. Both sides remain optimistic they can make progress this week.

In what can be interpreted as a positive sign as things become more detailed, lawyers for both sides are involved in these meetings after staying away from the past two rounds, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Jim Quinn are involved for the NFLPA, while Jeff Pash and Bob Batterman are attending the talks for the NFL.

The previous two negotiations occurred in Chicago and Long Island, N.Y. The owners' negotiating team, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, began arriving Monday night in the D.C. area, where the NFL Players Association is located.

For the secret negotiating session Tuesday, the players requested the same five owners who were in New York for last week's two-day settlement session, according to a source.

The five-owner roster requested by the players was John Mara of the New York Giants, Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs and Dean Spanos of the San Diego Chargers, the source told Clayton. According to multiple sources, the talks went well enough last week that neither side wanted to add or subtract any participants with hopes of making progress this week.

A large group of players that includes NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, Jeff Saturday, Mike Vrabel, Tony Richardson and Domonique Foxworth also were at Tuesday's meeting.

Also Tuesday, a league source told Schefter that the NFL sent a memo to its teams on Monday night, advising officials to be prepared to stay overnight during next Tuesday's league meetings in Chicago. It was not immediately clear why the NFL might extend the length of those meetings.

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah posted on his Twitter account that he isn't predicting "when a resolution to the lockout will come" before adding in another tweet: "We're focusing all our efforts on a long-term settlement, agreement and resolution. That's what we can control."

The talks are continuing as both sides await a ruling about the legality of the lockout from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The factions aren't due back in court until August. Last week, Judge Susan Richard Nelson moved up a hearing for the league's motion to dismiss the players' antitrust suit from Sept. 12 to Aug. 29 -- nine days before the regular season is scheduled to begin.

ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton contributed to this story. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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