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Report: Major ‘breakthrough’ in NFL labor talks, negotiations resume Friday

07.14.11 at 9:01 pm ET
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NFL owners and players are closing in on settling one of the lone remaining major obstacles in a new collective bargaining agreement, as the sides are nearing agreement on a rookie wage scale, the NFL Network reported Thursday night.

While there still are major issues to be resolved, settling the rookie wage scale issue was seen as a key hurdle to clear on the path to a new CBA. The owners have made concessions regarding the fifth-year compensation for rookies, sources told NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora, marking the breakthrough in negotiations that failed to materialize over the last week of meetings in Manhattan. Other sources said that players made concessions on rules preventing renegotiations by draftees until after their third year and undrafted players until after two years.

When NFL owners meet on July 21 in Atlanta, the hope is that they will have a completed proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement on which to vote. Sources additionally told La Canfora that negotiations are scheduled to go past midnight Thursday, and both sides expect to be back at the table Friday morning. It’s unclear at this point if the face-to-face talks will continue into the weekend.

One source estimated that if full closure on rookie wages is reached, there was “a 50-50 chance” the sides could have a handshake deal in place to present to U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan at their scheduled mediation Tuesday in Minneapolis.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was among the eight labor committee members on hand Thursday representing NFL owners. The group that was joined by Packers CEO Mark Murphy and Chargers president Dean Spanos. Six owners participated in meetings this week, including Carolina’s Jerry Richardson, Dallas’ Jerry Jones, the Giants’ John Mara, Kansas City’s Clark Hunt and Pittsburgh’s Art Rooney II, which is one more than the five who typically had been part of the process during the six previous weeks.

The parties met for more than 11 hours on Wednesday, with the players’ side leaving the Manhattan negotiating session at about 8 p.m. ET. The owners stayed and held internal meetings until 10 p.m. before reconvening on Thursday.

Thursday’s session was the last one scheduled this week, but word leaked out late Thursday night that sessions will almost certainly continue into Friday and could even last into the weekend, based on how much progress is made. One league source told the NFL Network that this is “deadline time,” when negotiators need to “do what it takes” to close a deal.

Various reports indicated sessions the first two days this week were productive, as lawyers for both sides worked to close out language to seal a potential deal to end the lockout. Some internal deadlines have set Friday as the date to have an agreement in order to save the preseason in its normal form.

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