NFL deal ‘not close' but calendar driving urgency


By Tom E.Curran PatriotsInsiderFollow@tomecurranFOXBORO - A source close to negotiations told me Thursday night that players and owners are "not close" to ending the NFL lockout but that "good progress" has been made. That jives well with the comments earlier Thursday by Patriots owner Robert Kraft who acknowledged progress as well but cautioned, "It would be misleading to say anything that would not make it crystal clear that there's a lot of hard work still to be done."The fact that we're into June and that training camps and the preseason are now in some jeopardy seems to be a motivating force. "I want football back," Kraft said. "I think we're getting close to having to put this thing to bed so we don't miss any events. I know that's the intent on both sides. ... The good news is, we're talking. I think we went 34 days without talking and the lawyers on each side were doing stuff. That, to me, isn't progress." One of the looming post-lockout issues to be confronted is how free agency will be initiated when this is all over. Does free agency begin immediately? Is there a short grace period? "There are people discussing this but this is part of how we do this and that's something I'm going to let the league office speak about," answered Kraft when asked aboutfree agency's start.While it hasn't yielded an agreement, the two rounds of talks without litigators have significantly changed the tenor of these negotiations -- as Kraft insisted all along they would."We've had the head of the union and five players and a mix of different owners and the commissioner all focused on the issues and what's good for the game and trying to solve that and I think that's positive," he pointed out. "I hope progress keeps happening . . . The good news is both sides care about the health of this game long term. That's our sole focus. Building on that is very positive." Tom E. Curran canbe reached at Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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