NFL Players Association president Kevin Mawae departs after a day of player representative meetings at the National Football League Players Association headquarters in Washington July 20, 2011. NFL players and owners were reviewing a proposed collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday with a vote by the players possible later in the day as the two sides work toward ending a work stoppage that has exceeded four months.
Photograph by: REUTERS, Jonathan Ernst
Washington, DC (Sports Network) - NFL players met Wednesday to discuss details of a new labour deal, but did not vote on any such agreement and said they weren't adhering to any timeline to end the lockout after more than four months of negotiations.
Indeed, just when it appeared the key was in the lock and ready to be turned, the process was stalled yet again.
Still, there was cautious optimism on the league's part that a deal was imminent, according to a chief negotiator for the NFL, who said from the owners meetings in Atlanta that he expects both sides to vote on a deal Thursday.
"I think we're making progress. I think we've worked well together over the past several weeks," said NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash. "The staffs and the attorneys have been making a lot of progress on the documentation and the language issues."
Pash said he wasn't surprised the players didn't hold a vote because the agreement the sides are hoping to reach will last for years and is something that needs to be considered in the appropriate amount of time.
"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 said.
Earlier, NFL Players Association president Kevin Mawae spoke briefly outside of union headquarters and said the players "are not in a rush" to settle with the league and were not eying Thursday as a deadline to do so.
That's when owners could vote on a new CBA during their scheduled meetings.
"Our timeline is to get the best deal for our players," Mawae said. "We want to play football and we want to go back to work. We're going to get the right deal for our players."
Video showed participants leaving the building where player discussions were being held.
Some left after reviewing parts of a tentative deal, reported the NFL Network, which said players held a conditional vote and left word with union officials about what it called "hypothetical terms" for laying out a scenario that would end the players' antitrust lawsuit against the league.
Players will be advised not to vote on a new labour deal -- and will not re- certify as a union -- until the so-called Brady lawsuit, as well as the TV rights case, are resolved, the NFL Network reported.
Pash said he assumes that owners can vote to ratify a deal even if the players haven't -- and vice versa. He said the no-vote by players on Wednesday "doesn't impact" the process at all.
"We're going to continue to work with the players," said Pash. "We'll find out if there are issues that still need to be negotiated and we're going to work cooperatively with them through the evening and try to have something in place that both sides can vote on tomorrow morning."
The NFL's labour committee met for about five hours to review the status of the labour negotiations, the legal issues and the economics of a proposed deal that would bring the sides together on issues like how to divide around $9 billion in revenue, how to compensate rookies and retirees and other sticking points.
Pash said they would reconvene at 10 a.m. (et) on Thursday. He said there were no remaining issues on the league's side regarding the Brady lawsuit and that the healthy outcome of a new labour agreement would mean that all pieces of litigation would go away.
That would put the sides "on a path where we're going forward together as business partners the way it should be. Rather than we're going forward with one hand and fighting over something that should be in the past," Pash said.
Approval from 24 of the 32 owners would be needed to ratify any deal.
Time is ticking down on any hope that there will be a full preseason docket in the wake of a new CBA. It is supposed to start August 7 with the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams.
The start of training camps, scheduled to begin at the end of this week, will likely be delayed.
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