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Lawyers in NFL labor dispute meet

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NEW YORK (AP) — Less than two weeks before some training camps are

scheduled to open, the NFL remains in labor limbo, with only the

lawyers for both sides meeting.

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Attorneys met Monday in New York to clarify language from previous

discussions, and will do so again Tuesday. Originally, owners and

players were to get together for more negotiations Tuesday, but now

won’t do so before Wednesday.

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Several issues are close to resolution, the most significant being

the split of total revenues between owners and players.

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But snags involving a rookie wage scale, free agency rules and

benefits for retired players have slowed the process. While the

league’s negotiators hope they can present a new collective

bargaining agreement to all the owners at their July 21 meeting in

Atlanta, not striking a deal before then figures to cause

postponement of the start of training camps, and probably

cancellation of the Hall of Fame game Aug. 7 in Canton,

Ohio.

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The St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears are set to play in that game,

and both teams planned to open training camp at the end of next

week.

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The NFL would need about a week to get the new deal ratified and in

place, meaning teams couldn’t start signing free agents or

draftees, make trades or begin workouts until the end of the month.

That would jeopardize the first weekend of exhibition games, Aug.

11-15, at a cost of upward of $60 million in overall

revenues.

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Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners will negotiate with

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and members of the

players’ executive board later this week. Extensive negotiations

last Thursday and Friday seemed promising, but the parties were

unable to close the gap on the rookie wage scale – a subject that

wasn’t nearly as contentious in earlier sessions.

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At issue is how many first-round picks would fall under the wage

scale, and the length of contracts teams could offer those rookies.

The savings on salaries were supposed to go to veteran players and

toward retirees’ benefits.

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Some player agents, particularly those who often represent high

draft picks, have opposed a rookie wage scale, saying it eventually

would limit earning power for all players.

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One proposal, according to a person familiar with the negotiations,

would limit the top overall pick to about $7 million a year for

five years, with the option to renegotiate after the third year.

Sam Bradford signed with St. Louis in 2010 for $78 million over six

years, including a record $50 million in guaranteed money. Under

that system, this year’s first selection, Auburn quarterback Cam

Newton, would have exceeded those numbers.

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The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated

Press because details of the negotiations are supposed to be

private, said minimum salaries for players in their first four

years would increase from 17 percent in their first year to 12

percent in their fourth year.

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The players insist that unrestricted free agency begin after four

seasons, as it did before 2010 when there was a salary cap. Owners,

naturally, prefer the six-year minimum in place in 2010 (without a

salary cap), and also would like more than the one

right-of-first-refusal transition tag they had under the previous

CBA.

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Each side remains divided on how a “legacy fund” for retired

players would be financed, as well.

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This week’s talks will be held without Judge Arthur Boylan, the

court-appointed mediator who is on vacation. He has ordered both

sides to be in his court in Minneapolis on July 19 to continue

negotiations while hoping a deal gets done before he

returns.

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Should negotiations last beyond July 19 – or the owners’ meeting

two days later – that could lead to even deeper cuts in the

preseason.

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