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League, union wrap Thursday mediation with back and forth

WASHINGTON -- NFL and NFL Players Association officials left Thursday's heavily attended mediation session without a deal -- and with only one day left before the collective bargaining agreement is scheduled to expire.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said the sides will meet again before federal mediator George Cohen at 10 a.m. ET Friday. Union sources said Smith plans to update the players on negotiations by e-mail at 2 p.m.

The union has until 5 p.m. to decertify so it can possibly file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. The CBA, which has been extended twice to allow further negotiations, runs out seven hours after that.

NFL general counsel Jeff Pash exited the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building around 6:45 p.m. Thursday, and said people from the league and the union held face-to-face meetings and exchanged proposals on "important issues."

"Things can come together quickly. Things can fall apart quickly," Pash said. "I've said it many times: If both sides have an equal commitment to getting this deal done, it will get done. I don't know if both sides have an equal commitment. ... Obviously, we have the commitment."

Smith, who left before Pash spoke, came back to the FMCS building to respond.

"We have been committed to this process," Smith said. "But for anyone to stand and turn to the American people and say they question that?

"We're going to work like heck to make sure football continues," Smith added.

Smith also referenced a court ruling last week, when the federal judge overseeing NFL labor matters sided with players in their case accusing owners of improperly negotiating TV deals to stockpile $4 billion to prepare for a work stoppage.

Smith handed out a document, which he said was obtained "through discovery," that included language pertaining to an NFL decision tree. It stated a "key factor" in the league's decision to extend the TV deals as "cash needed during lockout."

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said the players and the owners didn't meet face-to-face Thursday. He added that the players had waited at their headquarters for two hours to meet with the owners before deciding to head home.

There was some moderate interaction between the sides, but those talks were on non-economic issues only, league and union sources said. Small groups of representatives from both sides participated, but there wasn't interaction between players and owners, sources said before Atallah's statement.

"When is union going to respond to our 150 pages of draft CBA provisions that they received eight days ago," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote on Twitter. "Waiting."

The CBA originally was supposed to expire last week. The sides agreed to push that deadline to Friday.

Thursday's session was one of the most well-attended of the 15 held so far.

In addition to Pash, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and league outside counsel Bob Batterman, the league's group included nine of the 10 members of the NFL's labor committee: co-chairs Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers, and Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos, as well as Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, New York Giants owner John Mara, Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II, San Diego Chargers president Dean Spanos and Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy.

The 10th member of the labor committee, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, has a previously scheduled commitment in Israel. Asked Thursday by The Associated Press if he expects next season to start on time, Kraft said: "That's my belief."

Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner and Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen also were in attendance.

The NFLPA's contingent grew to include outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler and numerous members of the NFLPA's executive committee, including Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, Kansas City Chiefs guard Brian Waters, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch, Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth. The union's group also included retired players Cornelius Bennett, Pete Kendall, Sean Morey and Jim McFarland.

The NFL hasn't lost games to a work stoppage since 1987, when a strike shortened the season and some games included nonunion replacement players. The foundation of the current CBA was reached in 1993 by then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and union chief Gene Upshaw. It has been extended five times as annual revenues soared above $9 billion, the league expanded to 32 teams and new stadiums were built.


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The 2006 contract extension was the final major act for Tagliabue, who then retired, succeeded by Goodell. An opt-out clause for each side was included in that deal, and the owners exercised it in May 2008 -- three months before Upshaw died. Smith replaced Upshaw as union leader in March 2009.

Two months later, Smith wrote Goodell a letter, asking for detailed financial statements from each of the 32 teams and the league as a whole. The NFL offered to turn over other economic data this week, and the NFLPA rejected that proposal, calling the information "utterly meaningless."

The NFL, meanwhile, said the union was offered unprecedented financial data, including some the league doesn't share with its teams.

The dispute centers on money: how to divide the billions in revenues, how much of that should go to owners off the top to cover certain costs, and the union's demand for what it calls "financial transparency."

Under the old CBA, owners received an immediate $1 billion to go toward operating expenses before splitting remaining revenues with players. Owners initially tried to add another $1 billion to that, and while they have lowered the up-front figure they want -- at least down to an additional $800 million -- Smith said it's still too much.

NFL Network's Albert Breer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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