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NFL, union head into Day 6 of mediated labor talks

The NFL and NFLPA kicked off Day 6 of meetings at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on Wednesday morning, building on 38 hours of federal mediation in the five previous days.

WASHINGTON - The NFL and NFLPA kicked off Day 6 of meetings at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on Wednesday morning, building on 38 hours of federal mediation in the five previous days.

Officials began arriving at 8 a.m. ET, and the vast majority of people were inside the building before 9:30 a.m.

At about 3:15 p.m. ET, 12 NFLPA delegates left the building, saying they were "taking a break until 5." In the five other days of negotiations, neither side exited the building before the end of the session.

The two sides agreed to federal mediation last Thursday and commenced the process before federal mediator George S. Cohen last Friday. The process was scheduled for seven days, and because Cohen has a prior commitment scheduled for this Friday, it's unlikely the mediation would go beyond that timeframe.

The union postponed until Friday a small meeting with high-level agents scheduled for Thursday in Indianapolis.

On the league side, there will be a meeting on Thursday for high-ranking club officials, with head coaches, general managers, and a third team official of the club's choosing present, according to multiple league sources.

When asked about it, league spokesman Greg Aiello responded, via email, that "It happens every year. It's a normal part of the combine, which always has meetings galore. ... It's not the first time. It's not a special meeting. An update on labor negotiations would be appropriate."

The meeting has garnered some buzz in NFL circles, though. When asked if it was unusual, one high-ranking club official responded that, "These are unusual times."

In addition to having the general manager and coach there, the official said the third man in likely would be, "your lead cap person or lead person on league matters, or team president."

One general manager said that the meeting at the combine is not unusual and that he's expecting an "update on procedures."

As for Wednesday in Washington, the lead people in the negotiations -- Commissioner Roger Goodell, general counsel Jeff Pash and outside counsel Bob Batterman for the NFL and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and general counsel Richard Berthelsen -- were in attendance, absent union outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler. Kessler left Tuesday night for Minnesota to deal with the networks rights fees case, which will be heard by Judge David Doty on Thursday.

The list of active players, though, did change. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel, Chiefs guard Brian Waters and Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins arrived at FMCS for the first time, while Colts center Jeff Saturday returned after attending the mediation over the weekend and leaving. All four of the aforementioned sit on the NFLPA's executive committee.

Nine of the 11 members of the executive committee have appeared during the six days of mediation in D.C., with the only exceptions being Saints quarterback Drew Brees and NFLPA president Kevin Mawae.

Both sides, per Cohen's request, have been operating under a cone of silence on the details of the meeting. Tuesday night, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said in a text message that any characterization of "what's going on in the negotiating room" is "pure speculation."

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on March 3.

NFLPA officials are scheduled to hold a mandatory meeting for all agents on Friday in Indianapolis. It is the first time this meeting, which is held annually, has been mandatory. After the Feb. 24-March 1 NFL Scouting Combine, the league has meetings scheduled on March 2 and 3 in Northern Virginia near D.C.

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