Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
NFL, players resume talks

ESPN.com news services

NFL owners and players met Wednesday in the Boston area in the latest attempt to work out a new collective bargaining agreement.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and members of his labor committee resumed negotiations with players' association chief DeMaurice Smith and several players. On Tuesday, NFL owners were briefed on recent progress about a new CBA.

Both sides seemed optimistic about reaching an agreement after owners were briefed on a new CBA that would net the players just under 50 percent of total revenues.

An NFL-imposed lockout has been in place since March 12. Training camps are scheduled to open in late July.

The owners spent five hours Tuesday listening to updates on various CBA issues. Afterward, the league's chief negotiator Jeff Pash said "we're eager to accelerate the pace of the negotiations."

"We have a lot of work to do and we've got to do it right," Goodell added. "The agreement has to focus on several issues and the issues are complex. It must be done in a way that is fair to the players and a way that is fair to the clubs."

Sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that the players' share in the proposed CBA would be 48 percent, but the expense credits -- about $1 billion last year -- that the league takes off the top would disappear.

In the previous collective bargaining agreement, players received approximately 60 percent of "total revenue" but that did not include $1 billion that was designated as an expense credit off the top of the $9 billion revenue model. Owners initially were seeking another $1 billion in credit only to reduce that amount substantially before exercising the lockout on March 13.

Ultimately, the two sides have decided to simplify the formula, which will eliminate some tedious accounting audits of the credit the players have allowed in the previous deal. Smith has stated that players were actually receiving around 53 percent of all revenues instead of the much advertised 60 percent.

Owners still will get some expense credits that will allow funding for new stadium construction, sources said.

A rookie wage scale will be part of the new deal but is still being "tweaked," and the much-discussed 18-game regular season will be designated only as a negotiable item with the players and at no point is mandated in a potential agreement.

Players believe they can justify a 48 percent take because of the projected revenue growth, as well as built-in mechanisms that require teams to spend close to 100 percent of the salary cap, a source told ESPN.com's John Clayton. The mandatory minimum spending increase is an element that concerns lower-revenue clubs, sources say.

For example, if the 2011 salary cap were to be at $120 million, a team would have to have a cash payroll of close to $120 million. In the previous collective bargaining agreement, the team payroll floor was less than 90 percent of the salary cap and was only in cap figures, not cash.

If and when an agreement is reached, all players whose contracts have expired and have four or more years of experience are expected to be unrestricted free agents, sources familiar with the talks told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Certain tags will be retained but that still is being discussed.

Players are willing to commit to at least a 10-year labor agreement if the sides can agree on the terms, sources told Clayton.

Goodell said ownership is "united and determined to reach an agreement and have a full 2011 season. The ownership has a better understanding of the framework (of a new CBA)."

Several owners were expected to have objections to some of the proposals. Goodell was asked if there was a consensus among owners, to which he replied that "is a little deceiving because we don't have an agreement" with the players.

Both sides sound eager to find common ground rather than return to court. A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the league's appeal of a lower-court injunction that originally blocked the lockout. That injunction is on hold, and a ruling could come anytime.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said at those meetings. "It can be done, it's something we have to keep working at. Every day closer hopefully, that's the goal."

The owners' lockout of the players began March 12. Training camps are scheduled to open in late July, and the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday became the first team to change its preseason plans. The Ravens will train at their facility near Baltimore rather than at McDaniel College in Winchester, Md.

Asked how close an agreement might be, neither Goodell nor Pash would put a timetable on it.

"I have no idea," Pash said. "We have to spend a significant amount of time with the players. There's a lot of work to be done for both parties. I don't think there's any way to say it's close or not close."

Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.