NFL, locked-out players wrap up talks for now

By Jon Krawczynski

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, April 20 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

The owners initially wanted to double the money they get off the top for expenses from about $1 billion to about $2 billion, but that number dropped during the first round of mediation. The players have insisted on full financial disclosure from all 32 teams, and so far the league has not opened the books to their liking.

Other major issues include benefits for retired players and the NFL's desire to stretch the regular season from 16 to 18 games. The NFL also wants to cut almost 60 percent of guaranteed pay for first-round draft picks, lock them in for five years and divert the savings to veterans' salaries and benefits.

More than $525 million went to first-rounders in guaranteed payments in 2010. The league wants to decrease that figure by $300 million, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The Sports Business Journal reported Wednesday that a group of about 70 "mid-tier" players was considering hiring a law firm to get a seat at the mediation table, upset that the talks broke off last month.

DeMaurice Smith, the head of the players' trade association, said he was unaware of the report. Vrabel said he had not heard of the report, either, but "they do have a seat, with Ben and me."

The NFL released its regular season schedule Tuesday night, announcing that the season will open on Thursday, Sept. 8, with the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers hosting the New Orleans Saints.

That's less than five months away, with free agency, trades and other roster decisions still up in the air while the lockout is in place.

The announcement of the schedule came with a big if, of course. The longer the labor strife drags through the court system, the more danger is posed to actual games being canceled.

AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report.

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