NFLPA still discussing proposed deal

Updated: July 23, 2011, 11:49 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Though an email was sent to NFL players Friday afternoon instructing them that player representatives planned to meet Monday to further discuss the owners' proposed labor agreement, NFLPA leadership sources told ESPN that a meeting is not scheduled and their plan is to continue to work through the weekend.

The letter, obtained by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, read, in part:

"Guys, to keep you abreast of the latest developments, we are reviewing the latest proposal for a settlement. Because of the passing of Myra Kraft in Boston, the NFLPA will not be making any public statements in honor of the Kraft family. Our recommendation is for everyone to stay put and keep doing what you are doing where you are doing it. We will meet again on Monday to discuss our options and the direction we want to go."

If a deal with a recertified union isn't in place by Wednesday, the first week of the NFL's preseason would be in jeopardy. Both sides agreed on a mandatory 15-day reporting date before the first preseason games, according to documents, and that provision hasn't been changed.

The message from high-ranking NFLPA sources was different, however.

Players association leaders have been reviewing what they are calling the "finishing details" of the agreement the NFL owners approved Thursday, and they plan to communicate with the NFLPA executive board and player reps at some point, a high-ranking NFLPA source told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.

If they feel they have resolved the remaining issues toward a settlement, it is possible a vote could be taken this weekend -- but there was no certainty on such action. A vote was not be taken Friday and there is an expectation that the back-and-forth discussions among the NFLPA and with lawyers for both sides could continue through the weekend, the source said.

NFL general managers were told Friday that the starting point -- originally Saturday -- to re-signing free agents and the opening of team facilities to players is on hold until the NFLPA's executive board accepts terms of the owners' proposal, sources told ESPN.com's John Clayton.

GMs and salary cap managers held a four-hour meeting Friday to re-learn the salary cap and changes coming for the upcoming season, but the timetable for using that knowledge is unknown, sources told Clayton.

One of the biggest issues for players is that they be allowed to re-form the union by signing vote cards in person, rather than electronically.

One of the possibilities being discussed, an NFLPA source said, would be to poll players electronically on whether to reconstitute the union, then use the results of that poll as a good-faith showing to owners, in an effort to have owners allow players to report to team facilities and formally sign cards to reconstitute the union. The NFLPA is adamant that it wants to reconstitute the union in the same way it decertified, which was with in-person signatures. Fifty percent plus one of the league's approximately 1,900 players need to give the go-ahead for the NFLPA to become a union again.

Players also are seeking a clause that would allow either side to opt out, with penalties, seven years into the 10-year proposal.

An opt-out clause, however, would affect negotiations for TV contracts, and that would affect revenue for both players and owners, so that is not thought to be a deal-breaker.

One issue that no longer looms is how to handle San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, one of the 10 named plaintiffs in the players' antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.

Jackson is now willing to release his claim without compensation, meaning no money or lifting of the franchise tag, a league source told ESPN's Schefter on Saturday morning. Jackson was the last of the 10 named plaintiffs unwilling to drop his claim.

When the sides do come to an agreement, GMs were told Friday that they could start some business activities the day after acceptance of a deal, sources told ESPN.com's Clayton.

If a deal with a recertified union isn't in place by Wednesday, the first week of the NFL's preseason would be in jeopardy. Both sides agreed on a mandatory 15-day reporting date before the first preseason games, according to documents, and that provision hasn't been changed. The annual Hall of Fame Fame in Canton, Ohio, already has been canceled.

Owners voted 31-0 on Thursday to accept the proposed CBA, with the Oakland Raiders abstaining, after a full day of meetings at an Atlanta-area hotel.

In explaining the Raiders' abstention from the vote, team CEO Amy Trask told NFL.com: "We had profound philosophical differences of a football and an economic nature," adding, "we voted the way we thought was appropriate."

Under the conditions of the owners' proposal, the players would have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week to try to bargain any changes to the proposal that would then have to be agreed to by owners in order to be incorporated into the agreement, which would then become final July 30. If the NFL does not agree to proposed changes, the old CBA terms on issues such as benefits, discipline and safety will remain unchanged for another 10 years.

Several players responded negatively in social-media forums to the owners' vote, including New Orleans Saints fullback Heath Evans, Washington Redskins defensive end Vonnie Holliday and Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco.

Evans wrote: "Here is what the 'Real' fans need 2 know: The owners tried 2 slip many things n2 the CBA 'they' voted on that were NEVER agreed 2! #PRPlay"

Holliday wrote: "Look guys I have no reason to lie! The truth of the matter is we got tricked, duped, led astray, hoodwinked, bamboozled!"

And Ochocinco wrote: "Smart move by the owners to gain positive public perception and pressure the players into a bad deal shifting the negativity on us #kudos"

Before NFLPA leaders had seen the owners' proposal, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith wrote in an email to the 32 player representatives: "Issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open; other issues, such as workers' compensation, economic issues and end of deal terms, remain unresolved. There is no agreement between the NFL and the players at this time."

Multiple owners, however, insisted both sides had reached a tentative agreement.

"That's baffling to me," Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. "We believe we have handshake agreement with the players."

"We believe we have an agreement," added New York Giants owner John Mara. "Now it's up to the players."

Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy told reporters in a conference call that the owners have "put our pens down" and are done negotiating.

"We've negotiated in good faith with the union. We've reached an agreement on all the key points," Murphy said on the call. "They know what we ratified and they're voting to ratify the same thing."

The proposed deal would make significant changes in offseason workout schedules, reducing team programs by five weeks and cutting organized team activities (OTAs) from 14 to 10 sessions. There would be limited on-field practice time and contact, and more days off for players.

Current players would be able to stay in the medical plan for life. They also would have an injury protection benefit of up to $1 million of a player's salary for the year after his injury and up to $500,000 in the second year after his injury.

A total of $50 million per year would go into a joint fund for medical research, health-care programs and charities.

One other rule the two sides have agreed on for the coming season: NFL gameday rosters would expand from 45 to 46 players, with the No. 3 quarterback no longer counting as an inactive player, a league source told ESPN's Schefter.

Also, under the agreement approved Thursday by NFL owners, minimum player salaries would increase by $55,000 over 2010 numbers, a league source told ESPN's Andrew Brandt. The source said first-year players will make a minimum $375,000 and second-year players a minimum $450,000. Approximately 900 of the league's players earn minimum salaries.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton and ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt contributed to this report. Information from ESPN national correspondent Sal Paolantonio and The Associated Press also was used.

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