The NFL players union held a conference call Thursday night to update the plaintiffs in the case against the NFL, according to ESPN.com.
The consistent theme seemed to be that the league and the players' union is close to reaching a deal to end the lockout in some areas, but in others there is still some work to do. This comes during a week when lawyers for the two sides met Tuesday and Wednesday to work out the language in a proposed new collective bargaining agreement, giving optimism that the lockout is close to ending.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith began meeting again Thursday and are expected to resume negotiations Friday in Manhattan.
Some thought an agreement could be reached as early as Friday, but that seems a little ambitious following the tone of the conference call. It appears next week will be the target for reaching a deal.
"We are close, but we got work to do and I'm not signing this until you guys are taken care of," Smith reportedly said during the conference call.
The longer it takes to get a deal done, the more likely it is that the season may not start on time. Training camps are set to open later this month, and the first preseason game–The Hall of Fame game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams–is scheduled for Aug. 7.
It appears a major sticking point right now is free agency. The owners apparently favor having the right of first refusal on up to three agents per year.
On Wednesday, the ESPN.com report said the two sides began working out free agency once the lockout, now 115 days old, ends and it’s back to business. Each team may be allowed to bring 80 to 90 players to training camp to atone with injuries and lack of conditioning due to the longest work stoppage in NFL history.