The NFL moved closer to an agreement with its players Friday and could reach one by Tuesday, a resolution that would end a four-month work stoppage and ensure the $9 billion league opens as scheduled in September.
At the end of a week when the often bitter tones of the dispute were replaced by gentle sounds of reconciliation, the league and the players released a joint statement to say they have made progress and will hold talks over the weekend.
"The discussions this week have been constructive, and progress has been made on a wide range of issues," the two sides said. "Our legal and financial teams will continue to work through the weekend."
The statement said confidentiality agreements restricted their ability to comment on specific areas of the talks, but multiple reports have stated the two sides have agreed on key sticking points.
A report on the NFL website headlined "Owners, players reach agreement on economics of labor deal" said an agreement on a rookie compensation system was reached during a 15-hour meeting in New York on Thursday.
Further talks Friday also brought positive developments and were scheduled to continue over the weekend as the sides work to ensure the 2011 season begins on time. The sides are set to reconvene Monday, and it was expected a deal would be complete by Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.
Team owners are due to meet Thursday in Atlanta, where they could authorize an agreement, paving the way for the formal details to be set. The Post, citing several anonymous sources with knowledge of the deal, reported it is expected to be announced next week, preserving the preseason in its entirety.
"Following a breakthrough in negotiations between NFL owners and players it now appears the economics of a new collective bargaining agreement essentially are done," the report on the league's website said.
The NFL's on-field events are scheduled to start Aug. 7 with the Hall of Fame game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams, while preseason games begin in earnest Aug. 11.