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NFL, players wrap up latest round of talks with deal still in sights

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Another round of talks between the NFL and locked-out players ended Wednesday with the negotiations apparently still on course toward likely producing a deal between the two sides in the coming weeks.

Negotiators for the league and players concluded two days of talks on the Eastern shore of Maryland. The two sides met for a third straight week, after previous sets of talks in the Chicago and New York areas. The talks are likely to resume next week after an owners’ meeting scheduled for Tuesday in Chicago.

The league and players continued to make progress in negotiations and a deal is within reach, according to people on both sides of the dispute with knowledge of the talks. But the timing of a potential deal remains unclear. The two sides apparently would like to complete an agreement by the July 4 holiday to ensure there is time for a free agent signing period and a full training camp, preseason and regular season. But some people familiar with the talks continued to caution that it potentially could take a bit longer than that to finish a deal.

The league and players released a joint written statement that said: “Discussions between NFL owners and players under the auspices of Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan [the court-appointed mediator in the dispute] took place again this week and will continue. At the request of Judge Boylan, both sides have agreed to maintain the confidentiality of the substance of the talks.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the dissolved players’ union, again participated in the talks. Goodell was joined in this round of talks by owners John Mara of the New York Giants, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers, Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs and Dean Spanos of the San Diego Chargers. Smith was joined by players Kevin Mawae, Domonique Foxworth, Jeff Saturday, Tony Richardson and Brian Waters.

Players have been locked out since March 12. The season is scheduled to begin Sept. 8.

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