NFL owners vote for deal, but players say issues remain
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) - A person familiar with the negotiations tells The Associated Press that players didn't vote Thursday on a tentative agreement to end the NFL lockout because they had not seen the full proposal approved by owners.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is supposed to be secret.
Owners overwhelmingly voted for a tentative agreement earlier Thursday, pending an OK from the players, who later held a conference call to discuss the proposal. That call ended without a vote.
Before the call began, NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith wrote in an email to the 32 team representatives: "There is no agreement between the NFL and the players at this time."
Thursday's vote by the owners was 31-0, with the Oakland Raiders abstaining from the ratification, which came after a full day of meetings at an Atlanta-area hotel.
Players still had to sign off on the deal - and they must re-establish their union, the NFL said. Players didn't vote on a full pact Wednesday because there were issues that had not been resolved. They planned to have a conference call later Thursday.
"Hopefully, we can all work quickly, expeditiously, to get this agreement done," Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "It is time to get back to football. That's what everybody here wants to do."
Players would have to sign off on the deal - and they must re-establish their union quickly for the agreement to stand, the NFL said. Players didn't vote on a full pact Wednesday because there were unresolved issues; they planned to have a conference call later Thursday.
Several players took to Twitter, expressing opposition to the proposal passed by the owners. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark wrote: "The owners want u to believe that they have been extremely fair everywhere and this is their 'olive branch' to finalize it."
The four-month lockout is the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.
One game was taken off the schedule Thursday: The exhibition opener - the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame game between Chicago and St. Louis - was canceled. "The time was just too tight," Goodell said. "Unfortunately, we're not going to be able to play the game this year."
Team facilities will open Saturday, and the new league year will begin Wednesday, he said - providing the players approve the agreement, too.
Owners exercised an opt-out clause in the old collective bargaining agreement in 2008, setting the stage for the recent labor impasse. The new deal does not contain an opt-out clause.
"I can't say we got everything we wanted to get in the deal," New York Giants owner John Mara said. "I'm sure (players) would say the same thing. ... The best thing about it is our fans don't have to hear about labor-management relations for another 10 years."
The old CBA expired March 11, when federally mediated negotiations fell apart, and the owners locked out the players hours later. Since then, teams have not been allowed to communicate with current NFL players; players - including those drafted in April - could not be signed; and teams did not pay for players' health insurance.
The basic framework for the league's new economic model - including how to split more than $9 billion in annual revenues - was set up during negotiations last week.
"These things, by their very nature, aren't supposed to make you necessarily happy when you walk out the door. It was a negotiation," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "I don't mean to sound negative, but it isn't exactly like Christmas has come along here."
Final issues involved how to set aside three pending court cases, including the antitrust lawsuit filed against the NFL in federal court in Minnesota by Tom Brady and nine other players. NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the owners' understanding is that case will be dismissed.
One thing owners originally sought and won't get, at least right away, is expanding the regular season from 16 games to 18. That won't change before 2013, and the players must agree to a switch.