Sides working toward deal in NFL labor talks

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Sides working toward deal in NFL labor talks

Associated Press

Don't break out the tailgate gear just yet. An end to the NFL lockout might not be imminent.

It does appears much closer than at any point in the last three months, though.

Recent progress in labor talks between the league and players has sparked a new sense of optimism, and team owners have been told to be ready to extend their one-day meetings in Chicago next week.

The two sides made progress in labor negotiations held Tuesday at an undisclosed location in Maryland. Those talks will go through at least Wednesday and quite possibly to the end of the week.

A person with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press that finalizing an agreement by next week's owners' meetings is unlikely. But a framework for a new collective bargaining deal could be presented in Chicago, with further tweaking extending the work stoppage until the end of the month.

A new CBA could be in place before the July 4th weekend, the person added, speaking on condition of anonymity because details of the meeting are not being made public.

Another person familiar with the talks told the AP that the owners and players are "headed in the right direction" and that lawyers "are back in the room" after being excluded from sessions the past two weeks.

Previous "secret" meetings have taken place in Chicago and New York. Such sessions have been critical in past NFL negotiations, dating back to the 1980s.

Still, it would be premature to predict that lockout is about to end, the people familiar with the talks told the AP. Yet the atmosphere of negotiations has been more positive than it was previously, creating "a sense of movement," they said.

That movement toward an agreement might be in both sides' best interest after a federal appeals court judge warned the owners and players they might not like the upcoming decisions in legal actions sparked by the lockout. Indeed, the court could delay any rulings if a new CBA appears to be near.

On hand at the meetings were NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith; several owners, including the Giants' John Mara and the Cowboys' Jerry Jones; and a large group of players that includes NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, Jeff Saturday, Mike Vrabel, Tony Richardson and Domonique Foxworth.

Although no deadlines have been set for the opening of training camps, the 32 teams soon must decide whether to delay them, particularly those clubs that stage a portion of camp out of town. Settling before July 4 almost certainly would provide for full training camps at previously planned locations.

First would come a free agency period, including the signing of undrafted rookies, and probably minicamps, which already have been canceled by the lockout that began March 12.

The lockout also has cost the league and some teams advertising and sponsorship money, and some players have not collected workout bonuses. At least seven teams have instituted paycuts or furloughs of employees who are not players.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.