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02-22-2011, 08:13 AM
Steelers' Batch: Labor talks going well
By Associated Press

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch emerged with a smile and a positive outlook Monday after attending a fourth consecutive day of federally mediated negotiations between the NFL and the players' union.

"Things are going well right now," said Batch, a member of the NFL Players Association executive committee. "We'll see how things progress over the next couple days."

He didn't discuss any details.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith left at 6 p.m., about seven hours after yesterday's session began.

NFL executives departed minutes after Smith. None would comment on the negotiations; Smith deflected questions by joking about the wintry weather.

After months of infrequent -- and sometimes contentious -- bargaining, the league and union have been communicating face-to-face for a total of more than 25 hours since Friday. The sessions are taking place at the office of George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a U.S. government agency.

The league and union agreed to try mediation in a bid to find common ground as time runs out before the current labor deal expires at the end of the day March 3. The union has said it believes team owners want to lock out the players as soon as the next day, which could threaten the 2011 season.

The sides met for about six hours Friday and Saturday and another eight hours Sunday.

Cohen announced Thursday that the groups agreed to the mediation, which isn't binding but is meant as a way to spur progress. The plan calls for several days of negotiations with Cohen present.

"Any time you talk," Batch said, "you have to feel better."

He and two other current players -- Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and Jets fullback Tony Richardson -- left at 5 p.m. yesterday, getting into cars that were heading to the airport. It wasn't clear whether other players would take their spots with the union's negotiating team in Washington.

The NFL's group began arriving at 8 a.m. yesterday, and commissioner Roger Goodell walked in alone shortly after 9 a.m. The NFL's group included general counsel and lead labor negotiator Jeff Pash and outside lawyer Bob Batterman.

Batterman represented the NHL when it lost its entire 2004-05 season to a lockout.

Smith got to Cohen's office at about 11 a.m., entering with Fujita. Former players Pete Kendall and Sean Morey also were part of the union contingent yesterday, along with lawyers Richard Berthelsen and Jeffrey Kessler.

The league and union went more than two months without any formal bargaining until Feb. 5, the day before the Super Bowl.

Greenway gets franchise tag

The Vikings placed the franchise tag on Chad Greenway, backing up their offseason statements about wanting to keep the 28-year-old linebacker in purple.

Greenway has led the team in tackles for three straight seasons. He was chosen the team's 2010 defensive MVP and had 149 tackles.

If the franchise tag designation stays in its current form in the next collective bargaining agreement, Greenway stands to make nearly $10 million next season.

Coaching hires

The Dolphins hired three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Bryan Cox as the team's pass rush coach, bringing him back to the franchise that drafted him 20 years ago. ... The Bengals hired James Urban as receivers coach. He's worked as the Eagles' quarterbackers coach the past two years.

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