The free agent market would open Wednesday, contingent on the close to 2,000 NFL players approving the labor pact by then. Teams would open their training camps on the same day.
“It’s a good agreement,” said Jeff Pash, the lead labor negotiator for the league. “It’s a fair agreement.”
Player representatives spoke to DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, in a conference call Thursday night, but did not vote on the agreement.
“As you know . . . issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open, other issues such as workers’ compensation, economic issues and end-of-deal terms remain unresolved,” Smith wrote in an e-mail to players. “There is no agreement between the NFL and the players at this time.”
Reaction from some players on Twitter and other media was highly critical of the owners’ decision. “Look guys I have no reason to lie! The truth of the matter is we got tricked, duped, led astray, hoodwinked, bamboozled! & I’m sorry you did too!” wrote Vonnie Holliday, the Redskins’ player representative, on his Twitter account.
More difficult to gauge was how rank-and-file NFL players will react now that the prospect of going back to work — and receiving their first paychecks for the 2011 season — is on the table.
Although the two sides still had differences on some side issues, there was broad agreement by both the league and the player representatives on the major components of a new collective bargaining agreement.
Under the owners’ proposal, teams would be allowed to begin re-signing their own free agents and signing their rookies to conditional contracts beginning Saturday. Those contracts would be voided if the players don’t approve the labor deal. Owners also approved a new system for revenue-sharing among the teams.
The deal also would resolve the litigation between the two sides, including the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the owners, a case filed by the players involving the sport’s television contracts, and a claim by the players of improper collusion by teams.
There were reports in recent days that the settlement of the lawsuit was being held up by the players’ side seeking the restoration of $320 million in lost benefits from last season, which was played without a salary cap, and asking for financial payments or free agency concessions for certain players who were among the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
But the resolution approved by the owners gave the players no lost benefits and no special concessions to the named plaintiffs in the antitrust case; it also made no payments to the players for the TV or collusion cases, people familiar with the situation said.