By Jason La Canfora NFL Network
NFL Players Association lawyers and officials continue to digest the league’s proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement, but there are several concerns regarding language contained in it and matters the players believe are unresolved, numerous sources with direct knowledge of the situation said Friday.
Conversations with player representatives and NFLPA officials revealed no sense that a vote on ratification was imminent, instead indicating that more time will be necessary to reach an agreement on the deal approved by owners Thursday.
One player rep said the NFLPA sent an email saying the next plan was to talk Monday. However, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah denied that such an email was delivered.
Tune into to NFL Network for complete coverage as owners and players enter the final phase of labor negotiations to end the NFL lockout. Albert Breer, Steve Wycheand Jason La Canfora are providing live coverage from Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
“There is no timetable for any conference call,” said Atallah, who explained the players are dissecting the documents and lawyers are discussing the remaining issues.
But confusion spread among players and player reps about a Monday conference call after they saw a report about an email being sent by the NFLPA. It reached the point where some reps — including two to whom NFL Network spoke — assumed it was true, assuming they just hadn’t received the email themselves.
It turned out the email wasn’t official and came just between players, not conveying any official communication from the NFLPA.
However, several player reps have advised their teammates that it could take several days to reach a point where the NFLPA is comfortable agreeing to terms and beginning the union recertification process. That could change if major gains are made in these negotiations.
NFLPA president Kevin Mawae issued this official statement Friday morning: “Player leadership is discussing the most recent written proposal with the NFL, which includes a settlement agreement, deal terms and the right process for addressing recertification. There will not be any further NFLPA statements today out of respect for the Kraft family while they mourn the loss of Myra Kraft.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith spent Friday morning in Boston to attend Kraft’s funeral. The wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft passed away Wednesday at age 68 after a long battle with cancer.
Meanwhile, over 100 team executives and general managers gathered Friday in Atlanta, where they were briefed on the rules for the upcoming league year. Officials were advised that team facilities will not be open to players Saturday, as was part of the proposal made to players, according to league sources.
If the players were to ratify the proposed deal Friday, then facilities would open Sunday at the earliest, team officials were informed. Dates on the league calendar then would move back one day each from there, depending on if/when the NFLPA ratifies the labor deal.
“We were told that the lockout was still in place; that’s the way we handle it,” said John Elway, the Denver Broncos‘ executive vice president of football operations. “We’re just waiting.”
Indeed, the language and league-year dates in the owners’ proposal Thursday were “contingent upon ratification of the agreement by the players prior to these dates.”
The issue of how, and when, the NFLPA would reform as a union — a necessary step before any player vote can take place — remains paramount. There is a difference between the players and owners as to how that process would occur. NFLPA lawyers and brass believe there are “major problems with the process of reforming the union and settling the lawsuits,” as spelled out in the proposal presented by the owners, according to one source.
Complicating matters is the revelation that some players have been referred to an illegitimate website — nflvr.com — that is posing as a vehicle to help players to vote to reconstitute a union.
The NFLPA sent a letter to all players and agents Friday advising them to ignore the site and that it isn’t affiliated with the NFL or NFLPA.
There also remains a significant disconnect between the sides regarding how certain issues would be resolved that only can be formally drawn up once there is a CBA between the sides. These issues include drug-policy matters (such as HGH testing), issues of discipline for off-the-field problems and some matters related to work-place safety.
Buffalo Bills player rep George Wilson told NFL Network on Thursday night that there is “no timeline” for players to vote on the deal, and Cleveland Browns wide receiver/kick returner Josh Cribbs urged fans to be patient.
“We hate that it’s being put out there that the lockout is over when the reality is that we’ve just made significant progress,” Cribbs said on NFL Network. “We don’t want the fans to look at the players in a negative way, but it’s a process.”
Several players took to Twitter, expressing opposition to the proposal. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark wrote: “The owners want u to believe that they have been extremely fair everywhere and this is their ‘olive branch’ to finalize it.”
Some players claimed that owners snuck some items in the deal, but NFL spokesman Greg Aiello disputed that notion.
“It’s really not true,” Aiello said in an interview on NFL Network. “Anything that we put in this press release was discussed and negotiated with the players. And now the next step is for them to approve it.
“I’m not sure what it is they didn’t know about or are surprised about. But again, there’s certain details that the owners just found out today or don’t even know yet.”
NFL Network reporter Albert Breer, NFL.com senior writer Steve Wyche and the Associated Press contributed to this report.