NFL lockout: Owners approve proposed labor agreement
By a 31-0 vote –- with the Oakland Raiders abstaining –- owners ratified a 10-year collective bargaining agreement hinging on the players' re-establishing their union, and agreeing to a labor accord that also wipes out all existing litigation, by Tuesday.
“There’s a sense of urgency to this,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We want to have a full 2011 season that includes four preseason games.”
The first casualty of the time crunch: The Aug. 7 exhibition opener between Chicago and St. Louis –- the bookend to Hall of Fame ceremonies –- was canceled.
Under the terms of the yet-to-be-fully-approved deal, players will be able to return to their team facilities Saturday, and free agency will begin Wednesday.
In essence, the owners have unlocked the door and are holding it open, waiting for the players to walk through.
The regular season would be kept at 16 games, and several measures would be put in place to limit off-season workouts and the amount of practices in helmets and pads throughout the season. Players with expired contracts would be eligible for unrestricted free agency after four seasons, as opposed to the six required last year.
“We have not drawn a line in the sand here,” said Jeff Pash, the league’s top lawyer. “We are hoping that it will proceed expeditiously. We think that the incentives are very strong for everybody for that process to proceed expeditiously.”
Not every team was in agreement with the NFL’s decision on the deal or how revenues should be divided among the franchises. Amy Trask, Raiders chief executive, said her club abstained from the vote because of “profound philosophical differences on a number of issues –- both of a football and an economic nature.”
It was widely anticipated that the players would vote on the proposal Wednesday but they did not do so because of unresolved issues, including how long it would take to re-form as a union. That vote didn’t come Thursday, either, despite an evening conference call involving player representatives from the 32 teams.
-- Sam Farmer in Atlanta
Photo: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, stands with Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, left, and Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt while announcing Thursday a tentative agreement to end the lockout pending approval by the players. Credit: John Bazemore / Associated Press