Sports

NFL players, owners still talking

The NFL Players Association’s executive committee reviewed only portions of a proposed deal to end the lockout and not enough to warrant a vote Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the league’s labor negotiations.

A full agreement in principle hadn’t been completed as of Tuesday night, and another person familiar with the talks said there was no guarantee a full document would be finished today, either.

While lawyers from both sides worked on contract language in New York with a court-appointed mediator for the second consecutive day, the NFLPA’s leadership met for about nine hours at the group’s headquarters in Washington.

“Every day the last two years has been a long day,” NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith said.

If the four-month lockout – the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987 – is going to end this week, in time to keep the exhibition season intact, the best-case scenario is that the players OK a new contract today, and the owners do so the next day.

Player representatives from all 32 teams were expected in Washington today – when they could vote, if a settlement is ready for their consideration.

One of the sources said lawyers for owners and players planned to continue discussions today via telephone, instead of the sort of face-to-face talks that produced so much progress last week.

The owners’ labor committee, meanwhile, is set to meet in Atlanta today.

All owners are expected to gather Thursday for a special meeting when they could ratify the deal and decide to lift the lockout they put in place March 12. Executives from all 32 teams then would be briefed Thursday and Friday on how the terms would affect league business. Clubs were told topics would include the 2011 NFL calendar, rookie salary system and guidelines for transactions.

Still unresolved Tuesday was what it would take to get the 10 plaintiffs – including quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson and Patriots guard Logan Mankins – to sign off on a settlement to their antitrust lawsuit against the NFL that is pending in federal court in Minnesota.

Late Tuesday, Jackson tweeted: “I have made no demands, I wanna play ball like the rest of my peers!”

Another pending issue has been the TV networks case, in which players accused owners of setting up $4 billion in “lockout insurance.”

After joining the talks in New York for about seven hours, Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller thought an agreement would be reached this week. Eller, who finished his career with the Seattle Seahawks in 1979, also said retired players won’t stand in the way.

After leaving negotiations, Eller headed to a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

“They want to get these games going, and they want to have a season. That’s their focus,” Eller said. “Our issues are very, very critical – very important – but they don’t really have much to do with whether the game goes on or not.”

He said “there’s still a lot more to be done” when it comes to benefits for former players, but that could be resolved after the main dispute is settled.

A proposal under consideration would set up nearly $1 billion over the next 10 years in additional benefits for retired players. That would include $620 million in pension increases, long-term care insurance and disability programs.

Retired players complained to the court in Minnesota recently that they had been excluded from negotiations, which is why Eller’s presence was significant.

Lawyers for the NFL and the players suing the league submitted a joint filing to the court Tuesday, asking for an extra week to file written arguments “to allow them to focus on the continuing mediation.”

EXTRA POINTS

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is suing the parent company of the Champion sports apparel maker, calling the decision to drop his endorsement deal over his tweets about the death of Osama bin Laden and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks a breach of contract. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick brought his anti-dogfighting message to Congress, backing legislation that would penalize those who knowingly attend animal fights and allow minors to attend. Forrest Blue, a four-time Pro Bowl center who helped the San Francisco 49ers win three consecutive division titles in the early 1970s, died at an assisted living facility in Carmichael, Calif. He was 65. The United Football League will push back the start of its games from August to September.

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