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League, players meet voluntarily for second straight week

The NFL and players resumed what were described as "very serious talks" on Tuesday, according to sources, in an attempt to build off last week's secret negotiations in suburban Chicago, and work toward a resolution to end the three-month-old lockout.

The exact location of this set of talks remains unknown, though NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reports they are taking place in the New York area. The NFL declined comment on the matter.

Last week's meeting lasted three days, running into Friday's hearing at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, on the NFL's appeal of a lockout-lifting injunction granted to the players by a district court. Following that set of talks, the league and players put out a joint statement.

"The parties met pursuant to court mediation," the statement said. "Owners and players were engaged in confidential discussions before Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan. The court has ordered continued confidentiality of the mediation sessions."

Both sides in this week's negotiating sessions are using the same cast of characters as last week, a source with knowledge of the situation told La Canfora.

Owners Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys), Robert Kraft (New England Patriots), Jerry Richardson (Carolina Panthers), Art Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers) and John Mara (New York Giants) -- all members of the NFL's labor committee -- were in attendance last week, as were active players Mike Vrabel, Brian Dawkins, Tony Richardson and Jeff Saturday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and NFLPA president Kevin Mawae.

The set up of the talks is scheduled to be the same as well, taking place over several days as both sides try to build momentum from one sessions to the next and find some consistency with the dynamics of the negotiations.

These talks were unexpected after Boylan publicly cancelled the court-ordered mediation set to begin on Tuesday. Sources indicate Boylan moved to cancel this week's mediation in the interest of confidentiality.

When asked about the next meeting during an appearance at a military base in Fort Bragg, N.C., last Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, "We will be meeting again." Goodell declined to comment on when, but did strike an optimistic tone.

"I think it's fair to say anytime you have dialogue directly, that's going to lead to progress," he told reporters. "I think we need more of that. As you've heard me say many times, I think this is going to be solved through bargaining, not through litigation. So that (Chicago meeting) was a positive sign for us."

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