NFL owners approve new labor deal; players yet to vote

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,” Goodell said. “It is time to get back to football. That’s what everybody here wants to do.”

A person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press players didn’t vote Thursday on a tentative agreement to end the NFL lockout because they had not seen the full proposal approved by owners.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is supposed to be secret.

However, Smith wrote in an e-mail 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.”

Several players took to Twitter, expressing opposition to the proposal passed by the owners. 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.”

The four-month lockout is the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.

One game was taken off the schedule Thursday: The exhibition opener — the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame game between Chicago and St. Louis — was canceled.

“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 — providing the players approve the agreement.

Owners exercised an opt-out clause in the old collective bargaining agreement in 2008, setting the stage for the recent labor impasse. The new deal does not contain an opt-out clause.

“I can’t say we got everything we wanted to get in the deal,” New York Giants owner John Mara said. “I’m sure (players) would say the same thing. ... The best thing about it is our fans don’t have to hear about labor-management relations for another 10 years.”

The old CBA expired March 11, when federally mediated negotiations fell apart, and the owners locked out the players hours later. Since then, teams have not been 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 last week.

“These things, by their very nature, aren’t supposed to make you necessarily happy when you walk out the door. It was a negotiation,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I don’t mean to sound negative, but it isn’t exactly like Christmas has come along here.”

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