ATLANTA – The NFL had hoped Friday’s seminar for general managers and other team executives would be spent discussing a labor agreement ratified by both players and owners.
Instead, with players declining to vote on a proposed deal, the executives could only make sketchy plans.
The lockout continues.
“As far as I know,” said Denver Broncos chief of football operations John Elway. “We were told there’s a lockout still in place as far as the way we handle it, the way we’re supposed to handle it.”
No deal. No football – at least not yet.
“We’re still in the same place we were,” Elway said.
Executives from each team met for about four hours at an Atlanta airport hotel. The topic was the tentative 10-year agreement approved by owners on Thursday night.
Owners want the players to approve their proposal, which would lead to the end of the lockout. But general managers were leaving Atlanta without knowing when they can begin negotiations with free agents.
There also is no firm date for opening training camps.
“The nature of our business is there’s always surprises and you have to be flexible,” said Carolina general manager Marty Hurney. “I think that applies right now more than (any other time).”
The version of the labor agreement that owners approved Thursday called for club facilities to open their doors for voluntary training today. But an Atlanta Falcons official said the team now is not expecting any players to arrive.
While awaiting the players’ vote, GMs were bracing for an accelerated free-agency period that could overlap the start of training camp.
“I don’t know whether exciting is the right word,” Hurney said.
“Obviously everybody has spent time preparing. That’s what we do. Now it’s just waiting. Be flexible and wait and see what happens.”
When asked if he still hopes players could be at his facility this weekend, Hurney only shook his head.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I really don’t know.”
After watching Hurney and other executives agonize over the continued uncertainty, Elway said he realized he was fortunate to be in his first year running Denver’s football operations.
“I guess it’s a little easier for me than everybody else just from the fact everybody else is pretty used to a pretty unified offseason where everything is on a time line,” Elway said.
“For me, being in my first year and not knowing exactly what that is … I guess I’m not as impatient as everybody else.”
When asked if he is prepared for the hectic pace which would follow the players’ approval of the labor agreement, Elway said “We’re as ready as we can be.
“We’ve been getting ready for seven months, so as soon as they shoot the gun off, we’ll be ready.”
Hurney said his emphasis will be retaining the Panthers’ free agents, which include defensive end Charles Johnson and running back DeAngelo Williams.
“I think we’ve said that all along,” Hurney said. “That’s been our philosophy and will continue to be our philosophy.”
The four-month-old lockout wiped out normal offseason work, including mini-camps, which give rookies and newly signed free agents a chance to learn playbooks and schemes.
The league called off the Hall of Fame exhibition opener, set for Aug. 7 between Chicago and St. Louis.