Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller thinks a deal to end the NFL lockout will be reached this week — and says retired players won't stand in the way of an agreement.
Eller and lawyers for retired NFL players joined labor talks for about seven hours Tuesday in New York as signs mounted the dispute might almost be over. After leaving the negotiations, Eller was off to meet with commissioner Roger Goodell.
"They want to get these games going, and they want to have a season. That's their focus," Eller said. "Our issues are very, very critical — very important — but they don't really have much to do with whether the game goes on or not."
He said "there's still a lot more to be done" when it comes to benefits for former players, but that could be resolved after the main dispute is settled.
The court-appointed mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, also was at the session, his second consecutive day overseeing negotiations. Owners and players were trying to close a deal to resolve the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.
The NFL Players Association's executive committee met to prepare for possible votes on an agreement in principle. Representatives of all 32 teams were supposed to arrive in Washington today.
AP reported that the players' executive committee reviewed portions of a proposed deal. A full agreement in principle hadn't been completed.
"The grass is cut, but the hay is not in the barn yet. We've got a lot of work to do," NFLPA president Kevin Mawae said.
Owners, meanwhile, are set to hold a special meeting Thursday in Atlanta, when they could ratify a new deal, if there is one. Executives from all 32 teams would be briefed Thursday and Friday on how the terms would affect league business.
Still unresolved was what it will take to get the 10 plaintiffs — including quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson and Patriots guard Logan Mankins — to sign off on a settlement to their antitrust lawsuit against the NFL that is pending in federal court in Minnesota.
On Tuesday, lawyers for the NFL and the players suing the league submitted a joint filing to the court, asking for an extra week to file written arguments "to allow them to focus on the continuing mediation." Tuesday's request, granted in the afternoon, noted that "the parties have also been meeting regularly since April 11, 2011, in an effort to resolve their disputes."
Also pending is the TV networks case, in which players accused owners of setting up $4 billion in "lockout insurance."
One proposal would set aside nearly $1 billion over the next 10 years in additional benefits for retired players, who complained recently that they had been excluded from negotiations. So Eller's presence was significant.
"We weren't happy, and we hope it doesn't go back to that. We hope we stay active in the talks and we hope we continue to have meaningful talks. This clearly lets us know there's more work to be done," Eller said.
Former Chamberlain High and 49ers star Blue dies
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