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Owners, NFLPA members meet in New York

POSTED July 7, 2011 9:05 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL teams owners and players’ association leaders met for another long negotiating session Thursday, hoping to finally break the labor lockout that has now lasted more than 16 weeks.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith joined in the sixth set of recent talks, which went for more than 10 hours, stretching into the evening.
A regularly scheduled conference call involving players in a lawsuit against the league also was planned for Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person, who said the call was not related to Thursday’s developments at the negotiating table, spoke on condition of anonymity because the two sides are not announcing details of the talks.
The players’ group at the meeting included NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, while the NFL owners were represented by Robert Kraft of the Patriots, John Mara of the New York Giants and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan, who has served as a mediator between the two sides, also was involved. He is scheduled to go on vacation Saturday, but talks are expected to continue in his absence.
Lawyers for both sides gathered on Tuesday and Wednesday to put together some of the paperwork that will be needed when a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement is struck.
Players and owners have been holding meetings around the country over the last several weeks, with pressure mounting to make a deal. A major sticking point has been how to divide revenues for a $9 billion business that is easily the most popular professional sports league in America.
Some training camps are set to open in less than three weeks and the first exhibition game, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions, is Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio. Hall of Fame president Steve Perry has said the plan now is that the game will go on as scheduled.
The Buffalo Bills still appear on track to hold training camp at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester. Todd Harrison, a faculty member who works with the Bills in overseeing camp, said school officials “continue moving forward” with their plans.
A person familiar with the situation told the AP that the college issued an email invitation to training camp staff to attend an annual orientation session on July 18. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the email was not released publicly. The Bills did not return messages seeking comment.
The pressure on players and owners to reach a deal was turned up another notch by the New York attorney general’s office, which this week launched an investigation into whether the lockout violates state antitrust laws. The players’ lawsuit, filed in federal court in Minnesota, also is an antitrust case.
New York Assistant Attorney General Richard Schwartz said in a letter to Goodell that the lockout will “inflict significant economic injuries statewide.” The New York Jets have canceled their planned training camp in the small upstate city of Cortland, he noted.


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