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League, union continue talking, but uncapped year a near certainty

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INDIANAPOLIS —- Another round of labor talks between the NFL and NFLPA took place Thursday while the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine got under way, but there was no indication of a new collective bargaining agreement being reached before the March 5 deal, meaning a 2010 season without a salary cap seems a certainty.

Negotiating committees for the NFL, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, and the NFLPA –- executive director DeMaurice Smith, Colts center Jeff Saturday and Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel were among several participants -- met for more than 90 minutes. The meeting took place at an area hotel and ran about 30 minutes longer than planned. Neither side commented after the conclusion.

However, 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."

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."

Smith and other NFLPA executives will meet with player representatives and some agents at a meeting later Friday. The NFLPA will address a larger group of agents and player reps at a meeting Friday. The state of labor talks and how they will impact players and agents will be the main subject of discussion.

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 next week.

"I guess till you get to March 5, there's always a chance," Goodell said.

An uncapped year has seemed inevitable for months. If that's the case, there will be no spending cap -— or floor -— in terms of how teams pay players. Free agency will be far more limited as a result, and teams can also dump contracts of players who haven’t lived up to them without suffering any penalties that could have been triggered under the old salary-cap rules.

The current CBA expires in 2011. If no deal is reached by then, a work stoppage is possible. Smith has said the NFL has positioned itself for a lockout by securing television deals that would pay it during a work stoppage. Goodell said it would be unwise to think that owners want to not have football.

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 had 12 general bargaining sessions to discuss issues related to developing a new CBA, and that there have been more than 30 overall bargaining sessions with the league in the past six months.

For more information on NFL labor, visit nfllabor.com

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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