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NFL labor pact still awaits player reps' vote

Players meet Wednesday without acting on proposal. A league attorney cites possibility that both sides could vote Thursday, when owners meet in Atlanta.

July 20, 2011|By Sam Farmer

Reporting from Atlanta — Player representatives from all 32 NFL teams met for almost 10 hours Wednesday in Washington, but did not vote on a proposed labor settlement, reportedly because there are outstanding issues that need to be resolved.

However, according to the league's top attorney, it is possible that players and team owners both can vote Thursday on a new collective bargaining agreement, keeping alive the hope that training camps can start on time.

Asked Wednesday evening about the impact on the proceedings of players' not yet voting, league lawyer Jeff Pash said: "It doesn't impact it at all. We're going to continue to work with the players. We'll find out if there are issues that still need to be negotiated and we're going to work cooperatively with them through the evening and try to have something in place that both sides can vote on tomorrow morning."

Owners will convene Thursday in Atlanta for a special meeting called to vote on the labor agreement. The documents needs 24 votes — a three-quarters majority — for approval.

Citing a person familiar with the negotiations, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that there was agreement among player representatives of all 32 clubs on what items needed to be resolved before any offer would be accepted. A second person told the AP that those players gave what was termed "conditional approval" of the proposal, as it stood Wednesday.

An agreement must be reached in the coming few days for any realistic chance to keep on track the Aug. 7 game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams, the Hall of Fame contest that annually kicks off the preseason. The lockout is in its fourth month.

Pash said he hopes that game can still be played, but even now, "It's getting tight."

On how he would characterize his optimism, he said: "It's cautious. But I think we're making progress, I think we've worked well together over the past several weeks.

"The staffs and the attorneys have been making a lot of progress on the documentation and the language issues. It's obviously a complicated agreement, but I think both sides are at the point where they can close, they should close and we should be in a position to take votes."

Unresolved are two major legal issues: the class-action antitrust suit filed by 10 players, among them quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees; and the so-called lockout insurance case, in which U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled owners violated their agreement with players by negotiating a $4-billion war chest with TV networks to tide over teams if the season were canceled.

Pash said the new CBA will be a "global" settlement that brings those lawsuits to an end.

"All of the litigation goes away," he said. "I think that's the healthy outcome … to have a complete, comprehensive, global agreement that settles all of the disputes and puts us on a path where we're going forward together as business partners the way it should be.

"Rather than we're going forward with one hand and fighting over something that should be in the past."

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