Best news regarding labor talks? They'll talk again next week

The best thing that can be said after seven days of meetings between the NFL owners and the players association is that the two sides have agreed to meet again.

After a full week of meetings in Washington involving the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, talks ended today with the parties agreeing to get back together starting Tuesday. They’ll continue to meet with the FMCS in hopes of reaching a settlement before the end of the league year on March 3.

The break will give the owners and the players a chance to tend to other business at the NFL scouting combine, and allow them time to strategize after some extended meetings.

"Our time together has been devoted to establishing an atmosphere conducive to meaningful negotiations and, of course, matters of process and substance," FMCS director George Cohen said in a statement released to media. "I can report that throughout this extensive period the parties engaged in highly focused, constructive dialogue concerning a host of issues covering both economics and player-related conditions. The tenor of the across-the-table discussions reflected a noteworthy level of mutual respect even in the face of strongly held competing positions. The parties met both in full committee and in subcommittees where discrete, technical issues lent themselves to smaller groups.

"Some progress was made but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties."

That cannot come as a surprise as both sides have basically been building to this point for the last two years. No one expected a quick resolution to the matter. Whether or not a deal can be struck next week in what will amount to a 72-hour window before the clock strikes 12, who knows? The fact that the sides have agreed to continue meeting is the best news.

Cohen has urged both parties to remain silent on the matter. Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, who attended sessions on Monday and Tuesday, declined to even characterize the opportunity to be a part of something so significant.

“I really can’t say anything,” Hillenmeyer said earlier today as he headed to sit in on the NFL’s Competition Committee meeting.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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