NFL Players Association player representatives gave DeMaurice Smith and the executive committee a "vote of confidence" to finish the remaining deal points in the proposed collective bargaining agreement, a source told ESPN on Wednesday, adding that the committee planned to work late into the night to try to resolve issues.
Part of the holdup in taking a vote on the proposed CBA, the source said, was that the player reps did not have a final document to review. The vote, which could take place by conference call or remote communication, did not happen Wednesday, a source said.
Earlier Wednesday, a source, who seemed upbeat, suggested the vote could happen Thursday.
Smith, however, hedged on whether the players would vote Thursday before owners are scheduled to meet in Atlanta and hold their own vote on the proposed deal.
"I know everyone wants to be an expert and say they know exactly what's going on behind closed doors and when this is going to happen," Smith told ESPN on Wednesday night. "Both sides know where they stand. Both sides continue to work very intensively, as we have for several weeks. I'm not into the prediction business and I'm not about to get into details, but their side knows what our deal is and, again, we know where they stand."
With negotiations reaching a crucial point, Smith said he received words of encouragement late Tuesday from former Major League Baseball union leader Marvin Miller.
"He reminded me that [labor negotiations] are always a tremendous amount of work and it should be that way until you reach a proper conclusion," Smith told ESPN.
The head of the NFLPA said he planned to work through the night by phone with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the appropriate negotiators.
Jeff Pash, general counsel for the NFL, said Wednesday that the proposed 10-year settlement will take time to close but that he believes the parties are close.
"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," Pash, the league's lead negotiator, said after the owners' labor committee held a five-hour session at a hotel near Atlanta's airport.
Goodell joined the meeting of nine of the 10 members of the labor committee, which hoped to recommend a finalized proposal to all club owners, who are meeting Thursday.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio that the owners will meet as scheduled Thursday, regardless of whether the players vote, and decide then on the next course of action.
Asked whether the owners would consider approving an agreement Thursday, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson smiled and said: "I'm always ready for a vote."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a member of the 10-person committee, was absent due to the death of his wife, Myra, and according to Paolantonio, his son, Jonathan Kraft, will attend Thursday's meetings in his place. Jonathan Kraft is the president of the Patriots.
Special considerations for the 10 named plaintiffs in the Brady antitrust lawsuit against the NFL remained unsettled as of late Wednesday night.
Pash said Wednesday afternoon that the NFL has no remaining issues with the antitrust plaintiffs and that the league believes the antitrust case will be dissolved.
Earlier Wednesday, NFLPA president Kevin Mawae referenced the plaintiffs in his comments to reporters.
"The deal we're working on is the one that's best for all the players in the NFL and not just four guys," he said.
When the CBA is finalized, it will include three additional provisions that were agreed upon by both sides, a league source told Paolantonio.
• Enhanced injury protection benefit -- In addition to a player's salary in the season he is injured, the player would get up to $1 million for the first year after the injury and up to $500,000 in the second year.
• Players get to stay in the league-sponsored player medical plan for life, if they so choose.
• An annual increase in minimum salaries for players -- 10 percent increase for rookies, 12 percent for second-year players -- and the increases will continue throughout the life of the proposed 10-year CBA. That would mean a 10 percent increase in rookie salary for 2011 over the 2010 salary and then a 10 percent increase for rookies in 2012 salary over the 2011 salary. Approximately 1,000 of the 1,890 NFL players in 2010 were minimum-salary players, according to the league.
"I think that's the healthy outcome: to have a complete, comprehensive, global agreement that settles all the disputes and puts us on a path where we are going forward together as business partners, the way it should be, rather than going forward with one hand and fighting over something that should be in the past," Pash said.
However, Mawae did say Wednesday that the players won't be pressured into agreeing to a deal.
"We're not tied to a timeline of July 21 [when the owners are scheduled to meet in Atlanta]. Our timeline is to get a deal that's best for the players -- today, tomorrow or whatever it might be," Mawae said.
Smith told ESPN that he wasn't disappointed by the perceived nonaction by the executive committee and the 32 player reps who traveled to Washington to review terms of a potential agreement.
"I think as Kevin Mawae told everyone at the start of the day that we did not bring everyone in to push them into a deal that isn't complete," Smith said. "This really was the first time these 32 guys were able to go through the point details. They asked some really good questions. This was a good day. Remember, it is a longer-term deal [10 years] than we've really ever experienced, so there should be a lot of questions, especially with details left unfinished."
If the four-month lockout -- the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 -- is going to end in time to keep the preseason completely intact, the players and owners almost certainly must ratify the deal by Thursday. The St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears are scheduled to open the preseason Aug. 7 in the Hall of Fame game.
Asked whether that exhibition game will be played, Pash replied: "We'll see. It's getting tight. It would be pretty challenging. That's one of the things we'll have to focus on."
Even after all acceptable terms are established, it will lead to a collective bargaining agreement only if the team reps recommend re-establishing the NFL Players Association as a union. And that needs to be OK'd by a majority vote of the 1,900 players. Those votes probably would be done on a conference call.
If owners, as expected, do vote Thursday, at least 24 would need to OK the deal. If it's passed by both sides, team executives would be schooled later that day and Friday in Atlanta in the guidelines and how to apply them; topics would include the 2011 NFL calendar, rookie salary system and new free-agency rules.
Meanwhile, organizers for the NFL's season-ending event, the Super Bowl, said Wednesday they likely will cancel a second weekend of bookings if the new CBA is agreed to in time.
Super Bowl host committee chairman Mark Miles said he plans to inform local hoteliers that they can begin booking customers for the weekend of Feb. 12 soon after the NFL's owners and players agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 5, but league officials had asked the city to keep two weekends open during the bid process in case the date had to be moved.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from ESPN national correspondent Sal Paolantonio, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.