NFL lockout: NFLPA leadership ‘discussing’ proposal; no vote scheduled

July 22, 2011

NFL players had no immediate plans Friday to vote on the proposal team owners approved to end the league’s lockout, but they remained hopeful of completing an agreement that would put pro football back in business next week, several people familiar with the situation said Friday.

The owners on Thursday approved a 10-year collective bargaining agreement and announced plans for a conditional end of the lockout if the NFL Players Association’s executive committee recommended ratification of the deal to all players.

Several people familiar with the players’ deliberations said Friday that the executive committee could vote over the weekend or early next week. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the NFL Players Association’s leadership.

One person with close ties to the players said he thought the players likely would ratify the labor deal after further details were worked out. Emotions had calmed a bit Friday, that person said, although some testiness remained after several players reacted angrily Thursday in the aftermath of the owners’ vote.

Players’ association officials said they would have no comment Friday other than a written statement in which the organization’s president, retired center Kevin Mawae, said the leadership was “discussing” the proposed deal but gave no indication when a vote might occur.

“Player leadership is discussing the most recent written proposal with the NFL, which includes a settlement agreement, deal terms and the right process for addressing recertification,” Mawae said. “There will not be any further NFLPA statements today out of respect for the Kraft family while they mourn the loss of Myra Kraft.”

Funeral services for Kraft, the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, were held Friday. She died Wednesday after a battle with cancer.

A players’ association official expressed similar sentiments.

“Today is a day to mourn and remember Myra Kraft,” George Atallah, the organization’s assistant executive director of external affairs, wrote on Twitter.

Under the resolution approved Thursday by the owners, players were to be allowed to begin voluntary workouts at teams’ training facilities Saturday if the executive committee made its approval recommendation to all the players. Such a recommendation also was to allow teams to sign their rookies and re-sign their own free agents beginning Saturday to contracts contingent on the labor deal being ratified.

Under the terms of the owners’ resolution, full free agency would begin Wednesday if the players ratify the collective bargaining agreement by then. If that happens, NFL teams also would begin their training camps Wednesday.

A majority of the close to 2,000 players must approve the collective bargaining agreement. Players have been locked out since March 12.

The owners voted, 31-0, Thursday to approve the collective bargaining agreement and conditionally end the lockout. The Oakland Raiders abstained.

The league and players are in broad agreement on the major components of a labor deal, including a salary cap system that would give the players just less than half the sport’s revenues and a rookie pay system.

When player representatives from the 32 teams met Wednesday in downtown Washington, they expressed satisfaction with the terms of the prospective agreement. But the proposal, in the players’ view, had unresolved issues. The player representatives authorized DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, and the executive committee to finish the deal. The player representatives gave their conditional approval to the agreement pending its completion.

But the players alleged Thursday night that the owners had voted on an incomplete deal. Some players said the owners had included provisions in the prospective agreement that hadn’t been negotiated. In the players’ view, some provisions, including drug-testing matters and pension issues, cannot be negotiated until the players re-form their union, which they dissolved in March the day before the lockout began.

The players’ side also believes the process for re-forming their union and ratifying the deal should be different from what the owners have set forth. The players think it could take as long as two weeks to complete the proper steps to re-form the union, while the league, which never accepted the union decertification as valid, asserts it could happen in short order.

The players want the two sides to work out a settlement of the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the owners first and the NFL to lift the lockout at that point.

Under the players’ plan, free agency would begin and teams would open training camps while the players are in the process of re-forming their union, and the collective bargaining agreement could be completed after the union is re-formed.

According to several reports, the players also are interested in adding an opt-out clause to the deal that could be exercised after seven seasons.

The league Thursday announced the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game, the preseason opener between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears that had been scheduled for Aug. 7. The first preseason game now is scheduled for Aug. 11. The sport would lose about $200 million in revenues for each full week of preseason games that must be cancelled, NFL officials have said, and some within the sport think the deliberations over a new labor deal could unravel completely if further preseason games are lost. The regular season is scheduled to begin Sept. 8.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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