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NFL lockout talks stretch into night in hopes of progress

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Negotiators for the NFL and locked-out players met late into the night Thursday, apparently putting the talks back on course toward a possible deal to put the sport back in business in time to have a free agent signing period before training camps would open.

The negotiations are scheduled to continue Friday in the Minneapolis area. People familiar with the talks said there was movement in the negotiations late Thursday after reports earlier in the day that they had stalled.

It did not appear late Thursday that an agreement was likely to be completed Friday. But the late-night negotiations seemed to put the league and players back within striking distance of completing a prospective deal by the end of next week.

Groups of owners and players participated in the talks Thursday, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association.

There were indications Thursday afternoon that progress had slowed as the two sides attempt to reach a deal on how to divide the sport’s approximately $9.3 billion in annual revenues. The players’ side conducted a conference call during the day to update players not participating in the negotiations, and sources familiar with that discussion said the players were told that the talks had stalled on the division-of-revenues issue.

But other people in the sport who aren’t participating in the negotiations but are familiar with them portrayed Thursday’s setback as merely part of the normal back-and -forth of negotiations. The negotiators for the league and the players stayed at it and continued meeting into the night.

The two sides have been hopeful of completing a deal by the end of next week to allow time for a free agent signing period before teams would open training camps in late July to early August.

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