MINNEAPOLIS — The NFL and its locked-out players started talking again, and they talked all day.
The only sign of progress, though, was the nine hours or so they spent in the federal courthouse Thursday. Sworn to secrecy about specifics of the court-ordered mediation, neither the league nor the players provided much insight about where they're at in seeking a new collective bargaining agreement.
"We had a full day. It was constructive to get together," said Jeff Pash, the NFL's lead negotiator. "The chief magistrate judge is working very hard, and I give him a lot of credit for really trying to move the parties toward a solution."
Neither he nor commissioner Roger Goodell would elaborate.
"We pledged confidentiality," Goodell said.
DeMaurice Smith, previously the executive director of the now-dissolved union, was mum, too.
"We'll be back tomorrow," he said.
So how long might this go?
"The court has indicated it wants to continue with everyone talking as long as it makes sense," said Michael Hausfeld, one of the attorneys for the players.
It was the first time the sides talked since March 11, when the collective bargaining agreement expired and the union was dissolved to clear the way for a court fight. With the 2011 season in peril, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan is overseeing this round of mediation. Sixteen days of mediated sessions in Washington failed to secure a deal.
Goodell stepped away from the session to join a teleconference with 5,300 Browns season-ticket holders for 20 minutes (part of a series of teleconferences with season-ticket holders around the league). He would not characterize the negotiations but reiterated the importance of the sides getting together.
"I can tell you that it's a positive step when the parties are talking," he said.
"We saw the March 11 proposal as responsive to issues raised by the players, and there are many attractive elements in it. Our entire focus is on getting a deal done."