Both sides mum after latest NFL bargaining session

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association

executive director DeMaurice Smith spent about 1 hour, 40 minutes

working on a new collective bargaining agreement Thursday, then

left without saying a word.

Goodell eventually returned to the hotel lobby hours later,

after participating in the league’s competition committee meeting

and reiterated the league’s position of finishing a new deal before

the CBA expires in March 2011.

“It doesn’t pay to characterize everything,” Goodell said.

“They (the players) know our desire to get a deal done and we’ve

got to keep working to do that.”

The two sides held their latest round of negotiations in an

Indianapolis hotel ballroom as the league’s annual scouting combine

began. Goodell said the two sides discussed “setting up” another

meeting, but did not establish a date.

Thursday’s topics included the appeals process for

disciplinary actions and player safety issues, things Goodell

expressed interest in implementing before a deal is completed.

Goodell declined to discuss other topics on the agenda, but

said he remains hopeful the two sides will negotiate a deal before

the CBA expires.

“I think it’s natural that deadlines produce results, so I

think deadlines help,” he said. “I think there is a general desire

on both sides to get a deal. But I don’t think you can create

artificial deadlines.”

The first official deadline is March 5. If players and owners

do not reach an agreement by then, the league will have its first

non-salary cap season since 1993.

Goodell ruled out any chance of the owners agreeing to a

temporary one-year salary cap to avoid an uncapped season, saying

that’s the reason owners opted out of the previous deal in the

spring of 2008.

And it’s increasingly likely no deal will be finished by

then.

“I guess till you get to March 5, there’s always a chance,”

Goodell said.

But players are looking to a more ominous deadline next

March.

They believe no deal will lead to a lockout before the start

of the 2011 season. The union has instructed players to plan

appropriately so their families can have a similar lifestyle if

there is a lockout. Player reps and union officials declined

questions Thursday morning and Thursday afternoon.

Smith was joined at the negotiating table by several player

representatives including Jeff Saturday of Indianapolis and Mike

Vrabel of Kansas City. About 15 player reps also attended the

competition committee meeting.

Goodell brought a group of league executives to the

bargaining session, including executive vice president and general

counsel Jeff Pash.

The meeting was supposed to last about one hour but went

longer than expected.

Goodell appeared to be in good spirits when he entered the

room. He smiled and hugged one player before negotiations began.

When the session broke up, both sides came out expressionless.

The NFLPA also sent out a memo Tuesday saying it does not

expect a new deal to be in place by March 5 when free agents can

start signing with new teams.

Smith has said the sides have met more than 30 times in the

past six months.