NFL Court-Ordered Mediation Begins to Break Lockout

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There might finally be some good news for football fans. NFL team owners and locked out players are talking again. This time it's in a federal courtroom in Minneapolis, with a judge mediating.

The last time the two sides met was in Washington on March 11, but after more than two weeks, talks broke off.

The bottom line to their dispute is money. Players and owners are fighting over how to split up $9 billion in revenue, and a lot of lawyers are propped up on both sides, trying to get their share.

"Ego is also a factor," said one sports reporter, who's been following it all from the beginning.

A month ago, the players dissolved their union after 16 days of negotiations ended with a stalemate. The NFL had its first work stoppage since the strike in 1987.

Many people worry that if the dispute doesn't get resolved soon, there won't be an upcoming football season for 2011.

In addition to the battle over cash, the NFL wants to stretch the regular season from its current 16 games to a full 18 games.

"Players worry that more games will mean more injuries and less recovery time," suggested one football follower, who didn't want his name used.

Retired players are also in the mix, fighting for better benefits, and owners want to reduce the amount of money guaranteed to first round draft picks.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tweeted on Wednesday, "I am also looking forward to resuming mediation talks tomorrow with players and their representatives."

Goodell and the others can't speak to the media because of a gag order imposed by the judge. A couple of NFL attorneys who briefly stepped out of the mediation to get bottles of water and diet cokes had smiles on their faces for reporters sitting outside.

When asked, "How's it going in there?" Michael Hausfeld, who is representing retired players, simply turned to me, grinned, pointed to his diet coke and said, "What does this tell you?"

The need for caffeine could be interpreted to mean mediation will go on for awhile.

Lawyers for the retired players, who are also part of the suit against the NFL, walked out a few minutes later.

The question "How's it going?" was met with "I don't know" and shoulder shrugs.

When asked if negotiations could continue all through the weekend, Shawn Stuckey, a former player who is now an attorney, quipped "It very likely could."

Stuckey's tweets couldn't be read because they are "locked."

On a positive note, the delivery boy who brought sandwiches to the courtroom  from the local shop Jimmy John's gave a big thumbs up when he said the two sides tipped him well.