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Labor plans the prime topic as owners open fall meeting

CHICAGO -- With negotiations on a new contract with the players proceeding slowly, NFL owners began their fall meeting Monday.

Day 1 was spent in committee meetings, but a plan on how to proceed in negotiations with the union for a new collective-bargaining agreement will be the primary topic Tuesday.

These are the last regularly scheduled owners meetings before the CBA expires in March. It's likely the owners will call for another get-together before then, as they did in Miami before the Super Bowl in February.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith insists he expects the owners to lock out the players. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the sooner serious negotiations take place, the sooner a new agreement might be reached.

The owners opted out of the CBA in 2008, saying the agreement reached in 2006 was too costly for them.

The NFL generates nearly $8 billion in revenues annually, with about $1 billion going to operating expenses. The owners receive about 40 percent of the rest, but they want about $1.3 billion more before the players are given their cut.

Goodell and most of the 32 owners also want to drop two preseason games and expand the regular season to 18 games.

The players say they won't agree to any new deal that brings them a pay cut. They certainly would want expanded rosters for an 18-game season. And they insist the owners should open their books to the union.

"The players know where every penny we made in the league is ... through an independent audit," Goodell has said. "They know the cost side, that 60 percent of that goes to the players. On the other side, the stadium constructions, they participate in that, so they know that. We've shared information with them."

For weeks, players on various teams have voted to approve decertification of the union should a new CBA not be reached. By decertifying the NFLPA, players could sue the league if the owners imposed a lockout.

"The only thing that we will do is continue to protect our interest," Smith has said.

The NFLPA was decertified in 1989, two years after a failed players' strike. It returned as a union in 1993, when a contract was reached with the league that provided for free agency. That landmark CBA has been renewed or restructured several times since 1993, including in 2006.

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Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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