NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director
DeMaurice Smith met for labor talks on Tuesday without
players or owners present, then flew to Florida together to speak to rookies after opening four days of labor talks in Minnesota.
Spokesmen for the league and the players' association confirmed Tuesday night that the two power brokers were on the same plane from Minnesota to address the NFLPA's rookie symposium.
SI.com first reported that both Goodell and Smith were on their way to the joint appearance. Smith asked Goodell to speak at the symposium on Wednesday morning at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Sarasota, Fla., and the commissioner agreed.
Both men are planning to leave Florida later Wednesday to fly back to Minneapolis and continue the labor talks.
The primary negotiators this week are staff and counsel for each side. They are working on some tedious components of a possible deal, including a rookie wage system. Their participation always has been considered a necessary part of a potential agreement.
A source told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that it is possible that owners and players who have participated in the previous four sessions under the supervision of US. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan could return later in the week.
People familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that player representatives
planned a conference call Tuesday to discuss the negotiations.
On Monday, a small group of players met with their attorneys in
Minneapolis, where the players have filed an antitrust suit against
the league. The city also is where the sides met for court-ordered
mediation in May.
Previous "secret meetings" have taken place in suburban
Chicago, New York, the Maryland shore and last week in Hull, Mass.,
south of Boston.
But time is becoming an issue.
The traditional start of training camp is just three weeks away and Chicago and St. Louis are scheduled to play the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 7. Yet Detroit Lions defensive end Lawrence Jackson said he believes there still isn't enough urgency to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement -- not yet.
"From a business perspective, nobody is losing anything right now," Jackson said at a youth sports camp in Walled Lake, Mich. "The owners haven't had to pay offseason bonuses -- so they're making interest on the money they're not spending -- and most of the players aren't used to getting paid until we start training camp in late July. Until then, I don't think we're missing much."
The lockout began on March 12, and players have not been allowed
to train at team facilities or contact their coaches, with the
exception of a few days in April when the lockout was briefly
Players on several teams have practiced on their own, trying to
keep in football shape so they'll be prepared to get back to
business on the field whenever the labor impasse ends.
The key issue in the dispute is how to divide revenues after the
league took in about $9.3 billion last year.
Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said he believes progress
is being made.
"The main thing is that they're talking and being able to
interact with each other," he said. "There was a point in time
where there was nothing being said and we were just sitting back.
Now, there's some interaction and it looks like there's some
positive light at the end of the tunnel. We're looking forward to
getting it done. I'm ready to get back on the field."
Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN reporter Ed Werder and The Associated Press was used in this report.