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NFL, locked-out players wrap up Day 3 of court-ordered talks, injunction decision looming


Retired Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame player Carl Eller arrives Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis where the NFL and its locked-out players continue court-ordered mediation.


MINNEAPOLIS —  The NFL and its locked-out players have wrapped up a third day of court-ordered talks at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.

The two sides met for about seven hours Tuesday and will resume talks Wednesday morning. They met for 13 hours over two days last week.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined the NFL contingent, along with Commissioner Roger Goodell and others, including Denver owner Pat Bowlen and Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy. All declined comment.

Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller was among the players on hand. He said only that it was a “tough day” before walking away.

The talks are the latest step in the contentious fight over a new collective bargaining agreement. Sixteen days of mediated talks in Washington fell short, resulting in a class-action antitrust lawsuit filed by the players against the NFL and the league's first work stoppage since 1987.

Michael Hausfeld, an attorney representing retired players, said both sides are serious about reaching a resolution.

"This is no charade. This is no illusion. This is going to come to a resolution either by the parties compromising or agreeing or by a judgment," Hausfeld said Tuesday before talks resumed. "And even with a judgment, many times there is then a discussion as to how to compromise the judgment so there is not a winner-take-all situation.

"This takes time. The court is doing everything within its power to get the parties to realize that."

When discussions concluded on Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, who is overseeing the sessions, assigned some weekend homework. Hausfeld walked into the federal courthouse with a document that he estimated at about 100 pages responding to the questions Boylan asked them to answer.

"What this mediation is about, what the dispute is about, is the structure of the game and the relationship between the rookies, the active players, the retirees, with each other and the league," Hausfeld said. "Those are fundamental."

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered the talks, which lasted 13 hours over two days last week. Her ruling on the players' request to lift the lockout is expected any day.

Players including MVP quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning filed the request along with the antitrust claim. The lawsuit has been combined with two other similar claims from retirees, former players and rookies-to-be, with Eller the lead plaintiff in that group.

The prospects of Nelson's ruling giving one side leverage could influence the mediation, Hausfeld said.

"I hope everyone in the room, owners, active players, rookie representatives and retiree representatives understand that this is a situation that not only involves their interests but the interests of many fans and other people who depend upon the game being played," Hausfeld said. "And if everyone seriously approaches the issues with the manner in which the court has, then hopefully progress can be made."

Any decision Nelson makes, Hausfeld said, would certainly be appealed to the federal appellate court in St. Louis.

That means more time for legal maneuvering, further jeopardizing the 2011 NFL season.

"There's no question that any ruling Judge Nelson makes will be a first step," he said. "It will be taken on appeal."

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