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Court freezing lockout

INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL lockout and the Carson Palmer stare down seem to have a lot in common as the owners convened here in a downtown hotel for their May meeting set for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Both are frozen in place, the lockout by litigation and Palmer by the lockout. And as he headed into Monday's dinnertime meeting of the owners' management council, Bengals president Mike Brown reiterated he's not going to meet Palmer's trade demand, lockout or no lockout.

"I'm just saying what I've said before," Brown said.

That means he has no desire to trade Palmer even though the club seems to be operating under the assumption rookie Andy Dalton is its Opening Day quarterback with Palmer now retired. The Bengals can't make a trade because of the lockout and they can't get any draft picks that are going to help them this season once they are allowed to make trades.

Brown allowed he's optimistic that the owners and players are going to get a new collective bargaining agreement and end the league's first work stoppage in 24 years. He just doesn't know when and he says it won't happen until the sides are talking again.

"We had a good discussion about a lot of things," Brown said after Monday night's meeting broke. "I don't think any of them are especially new. I'm not going to get into it. There's always hope. We're just talking amongst ourselves. To get this deal done, we're going to need more than ourselves. I'm always optimistic. It will get going again."

That echoes the talking points the NFL has been harping on since the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the owners last week when it upheld the stay of the lockout until the St. Louis court hears the appeal June 3. NFL vice president Jeff Pash, the league's point man in negotiations, said Monday night the parties are playing by court calendars instead of league schedules.

"The process of litigation has tended to freeze people and made it difficult for discussions to be productive," Pash said, although he thinks mediation has been helpful "in providing a forum for us to spend time with the players association and with the individual attorneys representing the players."

"But it's artificial in the sense it's all within the context of ongoing court cases," Pash said. "So just as when the players walked out in Washington in March and announced they were not acting as a union anymore and filed their lawsuit, everyone geared towards that. When's the hearing on the injunction? When will the decision on the injunction be issued? Then there was the stay. And then there was an appeal. So it has been a rolling series of court cases and we're getting close to 90 days after the talks in Washington broke down and where are we? Nothing has happened. There's no resolution. I think the answer is that litigation has frozen people. It's made it harder to have meaningful discussions, not easier and that's why we need to get out of court and get back together and work this out."

Pash hesitated when asked if the players have reached out yet to get back to the collective bargaining table. Mediation resumes June 7, but many legal experts believe the court will uphold the lockout in the hearing that begins June 3, which would put the ball in the players' court.

"I shouldn't … If we have heard anything from them, I'm sure it was intended to be confidential in that respect," Pash said. "Certainly, (the court) has urged us to keep those kinds of communication confidential and we should respect that."

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