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Published: Tuesday, 7/12/2011

Exhibition games in jeopardy

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — Less than two weeks before some training camps are scheduled to open, the NFL remains in labor limbo.

Lawyers for the two sides met Monday in New York to clarify language from previous discussions. Several issues are close to resolution, the most significant being the split of total revenues between owners and players.

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.

The St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears are set to play in that game, and both teams planned to open camp at the end of next week.

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.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners will negotiate with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and members of the players’ executive board today. 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.

At issue is how many first-round picks would fall under the wage scale and the length of their contracts. The savings on salaries were supposed to go to veteran players and toward retirees’ benefits.



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