10 owners attend NFL mediation with union

By Howard Fendrich

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 2 2011 9:05 a.m. MST

Richard Berthelsen, center, General Counsel to the NFL Players Association, arrives for football labor negotiations with the NFL involving a federal mediator, Wednesday, March 2, 2011, in Washington.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — All 10 members of the NFL owners' labor committee and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees are attending negotiations as the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement nears.

Wednesday's talks between the sides at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service comes on the same day that the league's 32 team owners are gathering to meet at a hotel about 25 miles away in Chantilly, Va.

The CBA runs out at midnight Eastern time as Thursday becomes Friday, and whatever happens this week could cause the country's most popular sport to lose regular-season games to a work stoppage for the first time since 1987. Or, perhaps, everything could be resolved by management and labor in an industry with revenues topping $9 billion annually.

"So far, obviously, we haven't been successful," Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said on his way into the mediation session shortly before 10 a.m., "but we're optimistic in due time we will."

Added Richardson: "We have a league meeting, and we decided it would be a good idea for our full committee to meet with the mediation process this morning. Our objective, of course, is to negotiate a fair agreement for the players and the teams."

NFL general counsel and lead labor negotiator Jeff Pash reiterated that it is possible that the league and union could agree to extend the deadline for arriving at a new CBA.

"We have to see where we are. We've said that's an option. We're not taking anything off the table," Pash said.

Labor committee members joining Richardson on Wednesday at the talks were Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots, Art Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers, John Mara of the New York Giants, Mike Brown of Cincinnati Bengals, Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs, Dean Spanos of the San Diego Chargers, Mark Murphy of the Green Bay Packers, and Pat Bowlen of the Denver Broncos.

They walked in with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Brees is a member of the NFL Players Association executive committee, and entered the building with other members of the union's negotiating team, including NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith.

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