League, union continue mediation with 9-hour-plus session

WASHINGTON -- The NFL and the NFL Players Association held their longest talks Tuesday, their 13th day at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building, going 9½ hours before departing around 6:30 p.m. ET.

During the mediation session, the union held a conference call with NFL Network and The Associated Press to announce it has retained an international investment bank to help players interpret any financial numbers they receive from the league.

The union has long demanded full financial statements from the league, which has declined, while the sides decide how to divide $9.3 billion in total revenue. Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday said on his way from the FMCS building Tuesday that having the bank involved now "was to help judge how helpful the material they were offering to give us -- how worthwhile it was in helping us make a decision."

George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director for external affairs, said on the conference call that the union has had the bank on retainer for "a couple months." On Tuesday, an auditor whom the NFLPA has used "for years," according to a union source, arrived at the mediation.

According to league and union sources, significant financial differences remained entering this round of negotiations.

"We feel like we've given a lot of financial information," NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said. "And we understand they may have a different view. I'm not going to get into what we discussed with them this week, because of the agreements we have with (mediator George Cohen)."

Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, an NFLPA executive committee member, said on the conference call that the financial information "shared over the last couple years has not been sufficient." Fujita also said he was hopeful of reaching a new deal, although he said 'hope' -- I don't know if that means anything."

The CBA expires Friday at 11:59 p.m. ET. It originally was scheduled to expire this past Thursday, but that deadline was extended 24 hours. The deadline was pushed back another week after Friday's meeting.

The league and the union met for seven consecutive days starting Feb. 18, then for four days in a row last week. The plan now is to meet every day this week.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was joined at Tuesday's meeting by Pash, league outside counsel Bob Batterman, Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay and Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, who arrived in the afternoon.

Seven members of the NFLPA's 11-man executive committee walked through the FMCS doors Tuesday: President Kevin Mawae, Charlie Batch, Domonique Foxworth, Sean Morey, Tony Richardson, Jeff Saturday and Mike Vrabel. Also part of the group were Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, and retired players Pete Kendall and Cornelius Bennett.

Mawae made his first appearance at the mediation last Wednesday, but he wasn't at the FMCS building Monday. He took a 6:15 a.m. flight from his Nashville home to participate in Tuesday's talks.

Notable by his absence, again, was Jeffrey Kessler, NFLPA outside counsel. Kessler wasn't at Monday's meetings, and while he was in Washington on Tuesday morning, he didn't participate in early meetings.

As he entered the building, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith delivered a short tribute to NFL Films president Steve Sabol, who suffered a seizure Saturday night. NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen also was in the group.

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