NFL, players conclude 2 days of meetings near Chicago

ST. CHARLES, Ill.—NFL commissioner Roger Goodell accompanied by a team of influential owners ended two days of clandestine meetings with NFLPA boss DeMaurice Smith and select players this morning at a hotel in the western suburbs of Chicago.

All of the parties involved declined comment on the matter, referring to a joint statement. But one of the players present said the key for the get-together was the lack of outside attorneys with the exception of Smith.

That was the point of the meeting,” the player said. “No lawyers.”

Smith exited with former player Kevin Mawae and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, New York Jets fullback Tony Richardson, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel and Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday. Accompanying Goodell were Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, New York Giants owner John Mara, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who departed Wednesday.

“We can’t make a comment about it at all but we’re trying,” Jones said. “We’re trying. I think the fact that we’re meeting is good.”

The sides will meet next Friday in St. Louis at an appeal hearing before the 8th Circuit Court. That’s when the lawyers will become involved again. Mediation sessions for next week have been cancelled as the parties have engaged in confidential settlement talks.

What does it all mean? Face-to-face meetings are always positive and this could be the impetus toward leading the sides toward an amicable ending before the NFL season is jeopardized by the impasse and lockout, which is moving toward a third month.

“The parties met pursuant to court mediation. Owners and players were engaged in confidential discussions before Chief Magistrate Judge (Arthur) Boylan,” the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement. “The court has ordered continued confidentiality of the mediation sessions.”

Hopefully, the discussions create some substantive progress.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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