First comes the easy part.

The NFL owners formally began their meetings Monday by approving the new labor contract that will ensure peace with the players association until 2004.But the annual debate over instant replay awaits - probably late Tuesday or Wednesday.

The contract extension agreed upon last month was approved twice this weekend, first by the executive board of the NFL Players Association, meeting in Maui, and on Sunday by the Management Council executive committee. All 30 owners voted on it Monday, with 23 votes needed for approval.

Among other things, it gradually increases the amount of money allocated to the players, from the current 62 percent of total gross revenues to 64 percent. The approval also means the new television contract, which can be renegotiated after five years, is likely to be extended to eight years, bringing in close to $18 billion.

Union ratification seems certain - no one remembers when the players voted against a recommendation by their executive board.

"No more negotiations," said Gene Upshaw, the union's executive director. "Either the owners ratify or the current CBA will end after the year 2000."

Sunday's decision by the committee makes it likely the union will ratify.

The most prominent opponents are two who rarely agree on anything - Al Davis of Oakland and Wellington Mara of the New York Giants.

But Mara, who opposes a new provision that extends contract guarantees to a full season from a half-season, is a "league man" who is likely to go along with the majority.

Also likely to come up Monday is discussion of Cleveland, where the league must put a team by 1999. That's likely to be an expansion team rather than an existing franchise.

But no vote is likely at these meetings.

The other main item on the agenda is another vote on instant replay, which was to be presented to the owners Monday. It was approved just 4-3 by the competition committee - with general manager Rich McKay of Tampa Bay, coach Bill Cowher of Pittsburgh and president Mike Brown of Cincinnati opposed.

Cowher's "no" vote may doom it - most coaches approve of the concept but at are at odds over the system. The system recommended by the committee requires coaches to challenge a call before it takes effect.

"I'm not sure I like it that way," said Tampa Bay's Tony Dungy. "It almost means you have to have a coach in the booth looking at a monitor just to catch mistakes."