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NFL lockout continues despite 'progress' on contentious issues

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The NFL and NFLPA issue a joint statement Friday regarding their labor talks
  • They say "discussions this week have been constructive" and will continue
  • The two sides have been at odds since March, when the NFL imposed a lockout
  • The first preseason game is set for August 7; the first regular game may be Sept. 8

(CNN) -- Talks aimed at ending pro football's lengthy lockout continue, with the NFL and negotiators representing its players issuing a joint statement Friday noting "progress ... on a wide range of issues" and promising more discussions.

The statement is not the first to be issued jointly by the dueling bodies, which are sworn to confidentiality by Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, the Minnesota-based federal judge who has taken an active role in the talks. Yet its positive tenor was notable, especially after months of hard-fought, often bitter negotiations between the two sides.

"The discussions this week have been constructive and progress has been made on a wide range of issues," said the statement, issued on behalf of the league and the NFL Players Association. "Our legal and financial teams will continue to work through the weekend."

The league's owners imposed a lockout on March 11, suspending the then-labor deal in hopes of creating a new financial structure.

Since then, the two sides have faced off in courts and around conference tables. The major issues have revolved around how to divide the billions of dollars of revenue reaped via the league each year, rules of free agency, a possible rookie wage scale, retirement benefits and a host of other matters.

All this followed last season's Super Bowl, affecting payment to and organized workouts for players but no games. Yet that could soon change, if an agreement is not reached.

The first preseason game -- the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams -- is scheduled for August 7. The regular season is supposed to open Thursday, September 8.

Currently, scores of active players remain unattached to any team, suggesting a frenzied free agency period if and when a labor deal is reached.