WASHINGTON --- A day after the judge handling the NFL lockout lawsuit urged the sides to go "back to the table," the players and owners both expressed a willingness to do so. The hitch: Each offered to meet for talks in a setting the other finds unpalatable.
A lawyer representing MVP quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and other players suing the NFL wrote U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson on Thursday to say they're willing to engage in mediation overseen by her federal court in St. Paul, Minn.
The NFL sent its own letter Thursday to lawyers for the players, proposing to resume talks in the Washington office of federal mediator George Cohen, two people familiar with the case told The Associated Press.
Since filing suit in Minnesota on March 11, the players repeatedly have said they only are interested in meeting with the league to discuss settling the litigation. And since the lockout began at midnight later that night, the NFL repeatedly has said it only is interested in returning to mediated bargaining.
Cohen mediated 16 days of negotiations in February and March that failed to result in a new collective bargaining agreement, and the old one expired. The union dissolved itself, saying it no longer represented players in bargaining under labor law, which allowed them to sue the league under antitrust law.
The NFL's letter to players Thursday proposed negotiations with owner involvement, one of the people told the AP, adding that players would be given assurances the discussions wouldn't compromise their legal position.
During the players' request for a preliminary injunction that would lift the lockout, Nelson recommended court-supervised talks, saying such negotiations should take place at "not the players' table, not the league's table, but a neutral table, if you will."