Lawyers for the NFL Players Association and the league met Monday at a Manhattan law firm to try to work out an agreement to end the four-month lockout.
The court-appointed mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, was expected to arrive in New York later Monday to oversee talks aimed at ending the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.
The owners have a special meeting set for Thursday in Atlanta, where they potentially could ratify a new deal — if one is reached by then. Any agreement also must be voted on by groups of players, including the named plaintiffs in a federal antitrust suit against the league, and the NFLPA’s 32 team representatives.
Players and owners have come up with the framework of an agreement that resolves most of the issues that have been blocking a deal.
— how the more than $9 billion in annual league revenues will be divided;
— a rookie salary system;
— free agency rules;
— a cap of about $120 million for player salaries in 2011, with about another $20 million in benefits.
The lockout began March 12, when negotiations broke down and the old collective bargaining agreement expired. The NFLPA announced it was dissolving itself and would no longer be a union that could bargain for all players under labor law, instead saying it was now a trade association. That allowed players to take their chances against the NFL in federal court under antitrust law.
The sides are trying to put together a tentative agreement in principle in time to keep the preseason completely intact. The exhibition opener is scheduled to be the Hall of Fame game between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears on Aug. 7, and as of Sunday, no preseason games had been canceled.
The regular season opener is scheduled for Sept. 8, when the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers are to host the New Orleans Saints.
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner, and AP Sports Writers Rachel Cohen, Larry Lage, Tom Canavan and Teresa Walker contributed to this report.