NFL owners submit new CBA proposal
MINNEAPOLIS -- In the shadow of a permanent stay order, NFL owners and their locked-out players have resumed court-ordered mediation.
The sides wrapped an eight-hour session Monday night in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan that included a new proposal from the owners and a belief that progress is being made in the lengthy labor standoff that threatens a $9 billion business.
Owners and players alike remained mum on specifics of the talks, citing the judge's confidentiality order, but Michael Hausfeld, an attorney representing retired players in the labor squabble, told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio on Monday that the owners have made a new proposal that has "released the stalemate."
"The players are considering their proposal and formulating a response. It's not acceptable as is, but it's a starting point," Hausfeld said.
Hall of Famer Carl Eller, also among those representing retired players, told Paolantonio earlier Monday that Boylan extended Monday's talks after the owners agreed to produce a new offer.
Eller said the league's decision created "positive feelings in the room."
"I think there is progress. We are waiting on a new concrete proposal from the owners that the players can respond to. This is progress. This is good," Eller told Paolantonio.
Beyond that, the sides stuck to their message.
The owners want to stay out of court, blaming the players for preferring litigation. The players claim they're only interested in playing and that the owners are preventing them and fans from enjoying the game.
"We have an opportunity to resolve this matter and get the game back on the field, and that really should be our exclusive focus," NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said.
DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL Players Association, said the players have prepared for a lockout for two years, suggesting they're not ready to relent in light of Monday's unfavorable ruling.
"Right now our guys are out there working out for free, because they dig the game," Smith said.
All of the attending owners except Carolina's Jerry Richardson departed Boylan's offices Monday night around 6 p.m. CT, leaving attorneys from both sides to continue the talks.
Right now our guys are out there working out for free, because they dig the game.” -- NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith
"The lawyers are going to stay and work on some things tonight," Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said after leaving the offices. "And we'll be back first thing tomorrow morning."
Less than an hour later, both sides announced they were done for the day.
Whatever progress was made Monday could be affected after the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the NFL's request for a permanent stay Monday night.
With the ruling, the 8th Circuit decided that the league's lockout of players should stay in place until a full appeal is heard on whether it is legal, which means until at least the first week of June and possibly much longer.
The appellate court said it believed the NFL has proven it "likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm without a stay." It also cast doubt on the conclusions of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who ruled April 25 that the lockout should be lifted -- only to have the same 8th Circuit panel put her decision on hold four days later.
"In sum, we have serious doubts that the district court had jurisdiction to enjoin the league's lockout, and accordingly conclude that the league has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits," the majority wrote.
At the same time, U.S. District Judge David Doty is determining the fate of some $4 billion in broadcast revenue he previously ruled was unfairly secured by the NFL in the last round of contract extensions with the networks to use as leverage in the form of lockout insurance. The players have asked Doty to put that money in escrow and for more than $707 million in damages, too.
"I think there's still time to [reach an agreement] and still have great competitive football that you all expect," Commissioner Roger Goodell told Buffalo Bills season ticket holders. "But time is running short. It's time to get back to the table and get those issues resolved."
The sides are scheduled to appear before the same 8th Circuit panel for a full hearing on June 3. The appellate court promised to make a decision quickly in order to "minimize harm to the players during the offseason and allow the case to be resolved well before the scheduled beginning of the 2011 season."
With training camps just two months away and the regular season opener only 115 days from now, there is restlessness around the league to go with all the uncertainty.
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Players have organized their own workouts to keep in touch and stay in shape, though most of the drafted rookies don't have playbooks and the college free agents who've normally signed contracts by now have no idea where or when they'll go to camp.
Minnesota Vikings free safety Mistral Raymond, a sixth-round draft pick, tweeted Monday that the lockout has left him with "too much free time," so he's decided to go back to school and "get closer" to his degree at South Florida.
Indianapolis defensive end Robert Mathis recently tweeted that he thought Goodell has "totally lost his players during this whole process."
The man who signs Mathis' checks, Colts owner Jim Irsay, also sounded discouraged in a stream of posts on his Twitter page Monday. Irsay complained about the arguing and the spin, and claimed he and Colts center Jeff Saturday, one of the leading advocates for the players, could get an agreement on cocktail napkins over a long lunch.
Irsay suggested that players and owners fine themselves every week after July 15 there is no new CBA.
"Get out of the courts!" Irsay tweeted.
The two sides also met for 16 days earlier this year before talks fell apart March 11 and the lockout began. Boylan presided over four days of mediation last month with no signs of progress.
Goodell, Pash and four team owners -- Rooney, Richardson, Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals and John Mara of the New York Giants -- were on hand with their legal team for Monday's session with Boylan.
Smith and three other lawyers for the players were present for their side. Linebacker Ben Leber, one of the players listed as a plaintiff in the still-pending federal antitrust lawsuit against the league, also attended. Eller and attorneys were there representing the retired players.
Information from ESPN's Sal Paolantonio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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