SARASOTA -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and players' association chief DeMaurice Smith this morning were expected to speak to NFL rookies gathered at the Ritz-Carlton before returning to Minnesota to continue labor talks.
There was nothing to suggest that a breakthrough that might end the owners' lockout of players was imminent but at least symbolically their arrival in Sarasota on Tuesday suggested progress to end the owners' lockout of players was being made.
After speaking to the players at 8:15 a.m., Goodell and Smith were expected to leave for Minneapolis, according to a spokesman for the NFL Players Association. They were not expected to speak to media gathered at the Sarasota hotel.
Goodell and Smith traveled to Sarasota after starting a 4-day negotiation session in Minneapolis.
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One sign considered positive is that in the newest round of talks, Goodell and Smith are accompanied only by their staffs, and not be members of their respective constituencies. The four-day, face-to-face session will be the longest yet, according to NFL.com.
NFL owners on 12 March locked out their players to force negotiation of a new collective bargaining that, among other things, would set the division between owners and players of revenue generated by the league. Other issues to be resolved include whether to adopt a rookie pay scale and new rules for establishing free agency for players.
Pressure is building for the sides to reach the settlement. The first training camps are set to start in about three weeks, and any additional delays might threaten the pre-season and the scheduled start of the regular season.
About 170 rookies are meeting at IMG Academies in Bradenton for various orientation sessions. The seminar is organized by the NFL Players Association.
The NFLPA spokesman said the players were expected to return to Bradenton on Wednesday afternoon.