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Clock ticks away as talks continue

WASHINGTON — NFL owners ended their special labor meeting Wednesday night without taking any action, just 30 hours before the collective bargaining agreement with the players expires.

Most owners left a suburban Washington hotel Wednesday night after a three-hour meeting, canceling a session scheduled for today. They are not required to take a lockout vote. That authority has been given to the labor committee, which met with the union in mediated talks earlier Wednesday.

"The committee has not made any decision as to what will happen upon expiration of the current agreement if we don't have a new one," league spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Earlier Wednesday, 10 owners and union president Kevin Mawae participated in mediated contract talks. The ninth session also included commissioner Roger Goodell and lasted about four hours.

"We're talking," Mawae said. "It's better than not talking."

Another mediation session is scheduled for this morning.

The CBA runs out at midnight tonight. Among the possibilities are the owners lock out the players and the union decertifies.

A lockout prevents contact between teams and players, including workouts. (The draft is still set for April 28-30.)

Decertification, in essence, ends the union's existence. But it also allows individual players to file an antitrust lawsuit and file for an injunction that would prevent or end a lockout. The Washington Post reported the players would decertify today and possibly seek the injunction soon after.

Jeff Pash, the league's general counsel and lead labor negotiator, reiterated Wednesday that it is possible the league and union agree to extend the deadline for arriving at a new deal.

"We have to see where we are," he said.

At mediator George Cohen's request, neither side has commented on if any progress has been made. The biggest issues are dividing revenue, a rookie wage scale, expanding the regular season to 18 games and benefits for retired players.

The union won a battle Tuesday when a federal judge in Minneapolis sided with it on TV contract money. Judge David Doty overruled a special master's decision to reject the union's request that $4 billion in 2011 payments from networks to the league be placed in escrow if there is a lockout. A hearing to determine what happens to the money has not been scheduled.

The union accused the owners of structuring TV contracts so they would be guaranteed money even if there was a work stoppage in 2011. In doing so, it decreased money made in other years of the contracts and, thus, decreased the amount designated for players. The union argued this violated the agreement between the sides that mandates the NFL make good-faith efforts to maximize revenue for players in all seasons.

Pash said Wednesday that the ruling "doesn't change the dynamic. We've been very clear that the television money was a loan. It's not a payment. It's not anything we were counting on. The decision was, frankly, not unexpected. And so it doesn't alter our planning one iota."

Vick signs: Quarterback Michael Vick, designated the Eagles' franchise player, signed his one-year tender. Franchise players must earn the average of the top five salaries at their position. For quarterbacks, that is about $20 million.

Jets: Defensive end Vernon Gholston was waived. The sixth overall pick in 2008 didn't play in last season's playoffs and had no sacks in 45 regular-season games (five starts).

Packers: Linebacker A.J. Hawk was released. The fifth overall pick in 2006 played in all 80 games (starting 77). Last season, he was third on the team with 72 tackles. General manager Ted Thompson said Hawk's $10 million salary for 2011 prompted his release and he hopes to re-sign him.

Ravens: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata signed his $12.5 million, one-year tender as a franchise player.

Clock ticks away as talks continue 03/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 9:58pm]
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