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Uncapped year in the NFL looms closer for 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010; D03

INDIANAPOLIS --

Uncapped year is looming closer

The NFL remains headed toward a season without a salary cap.

Representatives of the league's franchise owners and the NFL Players Association met Thursday to continue to negotiate a potential extension of their labor deal. But there was no indication that significant progress toward a settlement was made.

"I've said it's virtually certain we're going into an uncapped year," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "I stand by that."

Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the executive director the players' union, participated in Thursday's bargaining session, which was held at a downtown hotel as the NFL scouting combine got under way.

"I think there's a genuine desire on both sides to get a deal done," Goodell said. "We're working on that. . . . It doesn't pay to characterize each negotiating session. It's not beneficial. They know our desire to get a deal done."

The current labor deal between the owners and players expires after next season. This past season was the final one in the agreement with a salary cap.

Goodell made it clear that the owners have no interest in a proposal by the union to extend the salary cap system for another year while labor negotiations continue.

"That's why the owners terminated out of the deal," Goodell said.

"They wanted a new deal. They made the decision two years ago they'd rather be in an uncapped year than in the current system."

The uncapped year begins March 5, the opening of the NFL's free agent market.

Goodell also said there was no discussion Thursday of the league's proposal to begin blood-testing players for human growth hormone.

The union has had a long-standing objection to having players blood-tested, but issued a written statement Wednesday saying that it was willing to discuss the proposal.

The league made its blood-testing proposal as part of the labor negotiations but the measure could be put into effect as soon as next season.

Steelers extend Hampton

The Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to a three-year contract extension with defensive tackle Casey Hampton and designated place kicker Jeff Reed as their franchise player.

The deal with Hampton keeps him off the free agent market. It will pay him a little more than $21 million.

Hampton is a five-time Pro Bowl selection. There had been speculation that the Steelers might use their franchise tag on him if they were unable to complete a new contract. Instead, they used it on Reed.

-- Mark Maske

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