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NFL lockout: Amid court case, talks restart

NFL lockout ruling could go to owners. But as NFL lockout begins to threaten season, both sides quietly start up talks again.

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Ted Olson (left), a lawyer representing NFL players, speaks to the media as George Atallah with the NFL Players Association (second from left), and NFL players Adam Goldberg (second from right), and Brian Robison listen outside the federal courthouse Friday, June 3, 2011, in St. Louis. A three-judge panel from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments by the NFL and its players association on the legality of the nearly three-month NFL lockout by the league.

Jeff Roberson/AP

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A potentially crucial 68-minute court hearing took place Friday in St. Louis over whether to enforce an injunction to lift the NFL lockout or throw it out on appeal.

The players' lawyers took the brunt of the tough questioning, according to reporters there, further indicating that the owners are likely to win this round in court, though it will probably take weeks to get a decision.

The arguments Friday were made to a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit. Its earlier 2-1 decision sided with the league and upheld the lockout. The judges heard the arguments under advisement with Judge Kermit Bye indicating that a ruling would come in "due course" and suggesting that both sides work out a deal in the meantime.

News that players and owners quietly resumed talks this week — away from cameras and attorneys — has created the optimism for the first time since the league's lockout began March 11.

But how big of a step is this really?

It's a positive move — talking is better than not — but a deal, if it comes, is still at least weeks away, if not longer.

One positive take on the situation came from the Boston Globe, which had sources on both sides calling the talks a "very significant step." It was publicly acknowledged that these are settlement talks — something the players want. For legal reasons, they prefer a legal settlement over a traditional collective bargaining agreement.

The Globe added that the NFL Players Association would reform as a union, giving owners something they want. Those are ancillary issues to the big one — money — but it shows the start of the kind of give-and-take that will be needed to reach an agreement.

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Talks are widely expected to continue next week, away from cameras.

For the players, a deal now would require some backpedaling but would assure them of getting their paychecks in the fall and might be their best chance to get a decent deal before the court ruling really hurts them.

Free agent offensive lineman Damien Woody, last of the Jets, said players need a deal by late July to have enough time to prepare for the season, according to the Associated Press.

All told, the developments seem cautiously optimistic, though more cautious than optimistic.

From the start, this dispute has played out exactly as legal and business experts predicted. Before the lockout began, several sources said the sides would first test their legal muscles. They said real talks wouldn't start until around summer, when the threat to actual games loomed on the horizon. Those same experts have also been saying this fight isn't big enough for owners and players to tear up their season. There is still time left to deal.

The one way both sides really lose is if they start missing real games. That would cost both a lot of money. And that's the one thing we know neither side wants.

Eagles set playground build. The Eagles will hold their annual playground building event Wednesday at Moffet Elementary School in Kensington. Coaches, staff and cheerleaders will participate, though with the NFL lockout continuing players are not expected to be there.

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