NFL owners ratify new CBA proposal



College Park, GA (Sports Network) - NFL owners have made their stance known on ending the lockout, ratifying a proposed collective bargaining agreement.

League commissioner Roger Goodell held a press conference Thursday night to announce the new agreement, also revealing that players have yet to vote on the proposal, but have scheduled a conference call for 8 p.m. (et).

The league approved of a comprehensive settlement of litigation and new 10- year collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.

"It is time to get back to football. that is what everyone here wants to do," the commissioner said.

Because of the tight schedule, the league has canceled the first preseason contest -- the August 7 Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams. Goodell said the ceremonies for the Hall of Fame will go on as scheduled.

"There's an urgency to this," Goodell said. "We want to have a full 2011 season. That includes the four preseason games and we're up against the wall. I think that's indicated by the unfortunate cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game."

Multiple outlets report the measure passed by a 31-0 margin, with only Raiders owner Al Davis abstaining. Players still have to ratify the deal, but they also need to reestablish their union.

"We are pleased to announce that our clubs have approved the terms of a long- term negotiated agreement with the NFL players," Goodell said. "It includes many positive changes that emerged from a spirit of compromise rooted in doing what is best for the game and players. DeMaurice Smith and his team, and the players and owners involved in the negotiations, deserve great credit for their skill and professionalism. If approved by the players, this agreement will allow the league and its players to continue to benefit from the NFL's popularity and will afford a unique opportunity to deliver to fans an even better, safer, and more competitive game in the future."

The NFL announced that players can begin voluntary workouts at club facilities this Saturday if the NFLPA Executive Board approves the settlement terms. Following the reconstitution of the NFLPA as a union and approval of the new CBA by the NFLPA membership, the NFL calendar and free agency signings will start at 2 p.m. (et) next Wednesday. Training camps for all teams will open the same day. Day one activities will be limited to physicals, meetings, and conditioning. Players will practice without pads on days two and three.

This is all a formality at this point though because the players still haven't approved of the deal, which includes several changes to promote player health and safety. That includes reducing the off-season program by five weeks, reducing OTAs from 14 to 10; limiting on-field practice time and contact; limiting full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season; and increasing number of days off for players.

Under the new proposal, there is also no change to the 16-game regular season schedule and four-game preseason slate until at least 2013.

"Once the ratification process has been completed, there would be a period where the players would come in, do your physicals, you'd get your rosters in order," NFL chief negotiator Jeff Pash said. "Teams can begin signing their own players, their draftees and the like, the with contracts sort of being in the state of suspended animation until the ratification is complete, but they begin that process. Then, what you'd have is the beginning of the new league year, next Wednesday."

Under the proposal, there will be additional funding for retiree benefits between $900 million and $1 billion. The largest single amount, $620 million, will be used for a new "Legacy Fund," which will be devoted to increasing pensions for pre-1993 retirees.

"I can't say that we got everything that we wanted to get out of this deal," New York Giants owner John Mara said. "I'm sure they would probably say the same thing. Usually when that happens, it means that it's a fair deal."

The salary cap plus benefits per club was set at $142.4 million per club for the 2011 season and at least that amount in 2012 and 2013.

Of course, at issue is still the players voting on the settlement of the pending litigation. When the players decertified their union four months ago, a lawsuit led by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees was filed against the league.

The lockout, the league's first work stoppage since 1987, began on March 12 after the sides failed to reach an agreement on how to split about $9 billion in revenue.

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