Sources: NFL to vote Thursday

Updated: July 21, 2011, 5:48 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- NFL owners plan to vote on whether to accept a new labor agreement beginning at 6 p.m. ET Thursday, multiple sources said.

The agreement the owners will vote on is a global settlement deal that includes terms of a new collective bargaining agreement. Commissioner Roger Goodell will be given authorization to sign a deal with the NFL Players Association when it becomes a bargaining agent again -- though with limitations or consequences if not done soon, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Players have scheduled an 8 p.m. ET conference call with their executive committee and player reps to decide whether to accept an approved settlement from owners, and how to start the voting process for the 1,900 players who have to decide if they want to vote in a recertified union.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith addressed the ongoing negotiations in a short news conference outside the trade association's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

"We continue to talk. There are some issues that are outstanding that are left to resolve," Smith said.

He also said the decision to recertify as a union wouldn't be taken lightly, just as the choice to decertify in March was taken seriously "because we were a real union" -- taking a shot at owners' claims that the NFLPA's decertification was a "sham."

"The decision to decertify as a union was a significant one," Smith said. "Every individual person has to make a decision on whether they want to become part of a union. The individual decisions are something that our players take extremely serious."

As part of the proposed settlement the owners will vote on, the 10 plaintiffs who attached their names to the players' antitrust lawsuit against the NFL -- including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees -- will not net any financial or tactical gains, according to sources.

According to multiple sources, the proposed labor agreement doesn't change the status of any of the plaintiffs. For example, a request by San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson to receive a $10 million settlement won't happen.

Any conversations about changing the franchise rule in favor of Manning and Brees, a rule that would allow a player to be franchised once in his career, went unanswered, according to sources.

The proposed deal keeps franchise tagging rules as they have been in past agreements.

Frank Bauer, the agent for New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins, who is one of the named plaintiffs, responded Thursday to reports that Mankins had demanded special considerations.

"I think it's realy unfair what has happened to Logan Mankins in media characterizations that he is making monetary demands or holding up a settlement," Bauer told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.

"Logan Mankins is a young man who was encouraged and solicited into a lawsuit to help the union spearhead a new agreement. Logan's main concern for entering into (the suit) as a plaintiff was to see if he can become free and help other players have less restrictions. For people to say he has made monetary demands, he hasn't made any such demand. We don't know terms. We haven't talked to (NFLPA attorney) Jeff Kessler. There has been no communication, but it's irresponsible to report Logan has made monetary demands.

"Are we disappointed there has been no communication? Hugely. He trusted the union and Kessler to fight for Logan Mankins and the other players."

Bauer conceded that Mankins could reserve the option of continuing his antitrust case against the NFL.

According to sources, both sides are getting closer to resolving differences on workmení's compensation issues that have become costly to owners.

Left open for discussion is whether the league will go ahead and vote on a new CBA without a complete settlement of the lawsuit against owners who established a $4 billion insurance provision from the television networks in case there was no football in 2011.

If a deal is passed by both sides, team executives would be schooled later Thursday and Friday in Atlanta on the deal's guidelines and how to apply them. Clarification would be needed on the 2011 NFL calendar, rookie salary system and new free-agency rules.

Goodell maintained contact with Smith throughout Wednesday evening and Thursday morning in one-on-one phone conversations to iron out remaining issues in the bargaining process, a league source told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio.

Goodell joined the NFL's management council executive committee when it began meeting at 8 a.m. ET, while still staying in contact with Smith via phone.

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 this week. The St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears are scheduled to open the preseason Aug. 7 in the Hall of Fame game.

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher told ESPN's George Smith that he doubts that opening preseason game will happen.

"I think the Hall of Fame game is a no go even if we get it done today," he said, adding that "we still have to have time for free agency and all that stuff."

The Bears were scheduled to open training camp Friday.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN national correspondent Sal Paolantonio and ESPN reporter George Smith contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press also was used.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer