AP Source: No player vote Wednesday on NFL deal

By Howard Fendrich

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, July 20 2011 6:12 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — The latest twist in the touch-and-go efforts to end the NFL lockout: Players didn't vote Wednesday on a full proposal to settle the labor dispute.

The league, however, said the sides would work through the night to try to have a final agreement ready for ratification Thursday.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press there was agreement among player representatives from all 32 clubs on what items needed to be resolved before any offer would be accepted. A second person, also speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are supposed to be secret, said those players gave what was termed "conditional approval" of the proposal — as it stood Wednesday.

Even after all acceptable terms are established, it only would lead to a collective bargaining agreement 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.

In March, when talks broke down and the old CBA expired, the NFLPA said it was dissolving itself as a union and instead becoming a trade association, a move that allowed Tom Brady and other players to sue the league under antitrust law. Only a union can sign off on a CBA.

"We still have a lot of work to do," said Pro Bowl offensive lineman Tyson Clabo, who played for the Atlanta Falcons last season.

The meeting at NFLPA headquarters lasted nearly 10 hours and included the group's executive committee and the team reps.

In Atlanta, where the owners' labor committee met, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the sides would keep talking in hopes of finalizing a deal that is expected to last 10 years, although even that was not 100 percent certain as of Wednesday evening.

"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 owners' lead negotiator, said following a five-hour session at a hotel near Atlanta's airport.

NFL Commissioner Roger 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 due there on Thursday.

Remaining issues are believed to include how to set aside three pending court cases: The players' antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in federal court in Minnesota; the TV networks case, in which players accused owners of setting up $4 billion in "lockout insurance," money that the league would receive even if there were no games played in 2011; and a collusion case, in which players said owners conspired to restrict salaries last offseason.

"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 that going forward with one hand and fighting over something that should be in the past," Pash said.

Asked whether owners would consider approving an agreement Thursday, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson smiled and said: "I'm always ready for a vote."

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is on the labor committee, wasn't expected to participate because his wife, Myra, died Wednesday, at age 68, after a battle with cancer.

Earlier Wednesday, NFLPA president Kevin Mawae cautioned not to assume the lockout will be over by the weekend, saying his group was "not tied" to a deadline for getting a deal done in the next 24 hours.

"We want to go back to work, but we will not agree to a deal unless it's the best deal for the players," Mawae said in the morning.

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