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.

Bill Belichick says Brad Stevens has given him 'a lot of insight' on coaching

Bill Belichick says Brad Stevens has given him 'a lot of insight' on coaching

Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters last week that spending time with Bill Belichick can make you "feel pretty inadequate as a coach."

But Belichick raved about Stevens during a conference call on Sunday. The two spent time together on Friday night for the Hall of Fame Huddle fundraiser to benefit Belichick's foundation, and the Patriots coach explained that he's learned a lot from the Celtics boss.

"Got to know Brad ove the last couple of years," Belichick said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done, taking a young team, a team that we barely knew some of the players on the team, and in a couple of years has built them into a strong team last year and played very competitively in the playoffs. Fun to go over there and watch them.

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"Brad and I have talked about a lot of things that are just coaching-related. Obviously the sports are different. I don't know anything about basketball, and he says he doesn't know much about football. It's really not about Xs and Os and that kind of thing. It's more the other parts of coaching: Prepartion, training, team work, team-building, confidence, communication, players and coaches relationships and so forth.

"Obviously we're in the same business in taking more people to training camp than we can keep on a roster, then managing a roster and dealing with things that happen during the year with that roster, whether it's bringing other guys onto the team, trades and so forth. We've chatted about a lot of those things. He's given me a lot of insight.

"I'd say some of the players they get are a little younger than the guys we get on average. Kids that are coming out of college after one year, we get them after three years or four. Just the trans from college to pro which he obviously has a lot of experience with. Coming to the New England area for most players, that's an adjustment, we don't get too many guys from this area. All of those things like that."

Belichick: Sunday a 'rare opportunity' to watch upcoming opponent live

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Belichick: Sunday a 'rare opportunity' to watch upcoming opponent live

How do the Patriots handle Sundays after Thursday night games? Bill Belichick says he won't be glued to the television as New England's next opponent, Buffalo, takes on Arizona. But he will be watching and thinking through situations as they play out live. 

"I think for today, we've done preparation work on the Bills in their first two games, so this is one of those rare opportunities where you can kind of watch the game with a little bit of an idea of how you would want to play it or what you would want to do in certain situations," Belichick said in a conference call on Sunday. "Then, obviously not knowing what they'll do, kind of see how that goes, see what they'll do in those situations compared to what you think they're going to do. Or have they come up with something else, or is this situation a little bit different and has that changed their strategy or play-calling or whatever that happens to be?"

One of the elements of the game that Belichick may give a little extra thought to is how the Bills run their offense under new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who replaced Greg Roman after Roman was fired following Buffalo's Week 2 loss to the Jets.

"Obviously, with a new coordinator, defensively we'll have to pay attention and see what changes or modifications they will make this week," Belichick said. "That may be an ongoing process. I don't know if they do decide to change things whether they could get it all done this week or maybe it would take a period of time, but we'll kind of keep our eye on that.

"In the end, we'll have the film by the end of the day today so that'll answer a lot more questions than the live part of it will. But the live part of it, I'd say as we're working on the scouting report for Buffalo, you can kind of have that game on in the background, sort of keep your eye on it, and see how it goes. But I wouldn't say we're just glued to the TV because we'll see everything that we need to see in a matter of hours anyway."