July 21, 2011
AP National Writer
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) — NFL owners voted overwhelmingly in favor of a tentative 10-year agreement to end the lockout, pending player approval.
Thursday’s vote was 31-0, with the Oakland Raiders abstaining from the ratification, which came after a full day of meetings at an Atlanta-area hotel. While owners pored over the terms, Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke on the phone several times with NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith, including filling him in on the results of the vote before it was announced.
“Hopefully, we can all work quickly, expeditiously, to get this agreement done,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “It is time to get back to football. That’s what everybody here wants to do.”
Players still had to sign off on the deal — and they must re-establish their union, the NFL said. Players didn’t vote on a full pact Wednesday because there were unresolved issues. They planned to have a conference call later Thursday.
However, Smith wrote in an email to the 32 player representatives shortly after the owners’ decision:
“Issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open; other issues, such as workers’ compensation, economic issues and end of deal terms, remain unresolved. There is no agreement between the NFL and the Players at this time. I look forward to our call tonight.”
The four-month lockout is the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.
The first game on the preseason schedule — the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame game between Chicago and St. Louis — was canceled Thursday.
“The time was just too tight,” Goodell said. “Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to play the game this year.”
Team facilities will open Saturday, and the new league year will begin Wednesday, he said — assuming the players approve the agreement, too.
The owners locked out players on March 12. During that time, teams weren’t allowed to communicate with current NFL players; players — including those drafted in April — could not be signed; and teams did not pay for players’ health insurance.
The basic framework for the league’s new economic model — including how to split more than $9 billion in annual revenues — was set up during negotiations last week. But final issues involved how to set aside three pending court cases, including the antitrust lawsuit filed against the NFL in federal court in Minnesota by Tom Brady and nine other players.
NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the owners’ understanding is that that court case will be dismissed.
One thing the owners originally sought and won’t get, at least right away, is expanding the regular season from 16 games to 18. That won’t change before 2013, and the players must agree to a switch.