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NFL, players willing to talk ... sorta

NFL lawyer David Boies speaks to the media

NFL lawyer David Boies speaks to the media following a hearing at the U.S. Courthouse in Saint Paul, Minn. (Apr. 6, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

A day after appearing before a federal judge during a hearing on an injunction request to lift the NFL lockout, both sides in the dispute offered to resume mediated talks. The only hitch: each side wishes to deal with a different mediator. 

The NFL offered to resume negotiations with representatives from the players’ side, but only if George Cohen of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services oversees the talks. Representatives of the NFL Players Association, who are assisting 10 players suing the league on antitrust violations, only want to deal with Judge Susan Nelson, who heard arguments from both sides in Federal Court on Wednesday in St. Paul, Minn. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and nine others have filed suit against the league. 

“Our letter to the players’ attorneys today proposes negotiations with owner involvement under the supervision of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George Cohen,” the NFL said in a statement today. “The goal of the discussions would be to resolve all outstanding issues and achieve a global resolution. As part of our proposal, we offered to give the players assurances that they will not compromise any legal position as a result of the discussions.” 

After Wednesday’s hearing, attorney David Boies, representing the NFL, suggested both sides resume collective bargaining negotiations. Thursday’s statement did not mention collective bargaining, which appears to indicate some movement in the league’s position. 

An attorney for the players, Barbara Berens, said in a letter to Nelson on Thursday that she would accept Nelson’s offer of mediating any further talks. “As class counsel on behalf of the Brady class, we think this is an excellent suggestion and are prepared to engage in such mediation without delay,” Berens wrote. “Our agreement is, of course, contingent on the NFL defendants' agreement that they will not attempt to use this, our willingness to mediate, against the Brady class in some way, for example by arguing that such mediation efforts constitute 'collective bargaining' or otherwise arise out of a 'labor relationship.’”t

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