Sunday, July 24, 2011

NFL deal progressing; vote on deck

The National Football League moved toward an end to its labor problems yesterday with cautious optimism as significant progress was made, according to sources with the league and the players.
So much progress was made that a vote by the NFL Players Association board on the proposal that would
end the lockout could come tomorrow.
The hope is that NFL teams will be able to open their doors Wednesday, as well as sign their own free agents and draft picks, and negotiate with other free agents. The players would also begin the process of recertifying as a union Wednesday.
Sources said the apparent breakthrough yesterday came at the highest level, with commissioner Roger Goodell and union executive director DeMaurice Smith hashing out most of the issues and the recertification timeline one-on-one.
Of course, the two also talked at length Thursday before the owners’ vote, and things deteriorated after that.
The new league year - with the start of free agency and training camps - would begin Friday or Saturday, if a majority of players approve the collective bargaining agreement.
Sources said this timeline would keep the entire preseason intact.
The players stunned Goodell and owners Thursday night when they did not ratify the same proposal the owners voted on earlier in the evening in Atlanta.
Not only did the NFLPA not receive the entire proposal until late in the night, it felt there were several points that had to be resolved. Among those issues:
■Settlement terms for the television rights case and for the plaintiffs of the Brady v. NFL case. Those representing the interests of Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson relented yesterday on their demands for $10 million, sources said. He was the final plaintiff to stand down on the issue;
■Possible one-time designation of the franchise tag;
■Workout bonuses that players would have earned if they were not locked out;
■Workman’s compensation issues;
■A possible opt-out after seven years of the CBA;
■An in-season, short-term injured reserve.
It is not known how those and other issues were resolved.
The effects of the shortened training camp season will be seen in many ways, and many efforts will be made to placate fans.
The Broncos said they plan to open Invesco Field for practice Aug. 6. Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson said the team is “considering a variety of ideas.’’
The Hall of Fame game Aug. 7 is already a casualty. Now, the Hall will hold its annual pregame tailgate party and have Hall of Famers on hand for a meet-and-greet. It is one of 18 Hall events scheduled for the weekend, including the Aug. 6 inductions.
For the teams, there will be enhanced concern about injuries. Few players are likely to be close to football shape when they report.
“Based on working with over 60 active NFL guys,’’ said Brian Martin, CEO of TEST Sports Clubs, “I believe it is roughly 50-50 with those that are workers and those who are not. Many rely on natural gifts and they will be affected with the lack of mandatory conditioning.’’

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