NFL players mull owners' proposed CBA

July 21, 2011

While NFL owners were patting themselves on the back Thursday for approving a new collective bargaining agreement and submitting it to players for their vote, the head of the NFL Players Association was already casting doubt on when the labor dispute might end.

“Issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open . . . there is no agreement between the NFL and the players at this time," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith wrote to NFL players in an email obtained by

A team representative told that owners were informed there would be no player vote Thursday night.

That news carried a far different tone than the message that came from Atlanta, where the owners approved a new CBA by a 31-0 vote.

“We’re just excited about it. We think it’s a win-win,” Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy said. “There are a lot of positives on both sides of this, a lot of compromise, and to me, the best thing is it allows us to have a full preseason as well as a full regular season. So it’s just a great thing, and hopefully the players will ratify it soon.”

Don’t count on it.

The players still have concerns, chief among them a revenue-sharing proposal that Smith said the NFLPA has not been yet been briefed in detail on.

"You know the owners have ratified their proposal to settle our differences,” Smith said in the email. “It is my understanding they are forwarding it to us.”

NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen sent an email Thursday night to player reps outlining concerns about the CBA, a source told Berthelsen wrote that the NFL’s push for players to reconstitute the union by July 26 could violate federal law and negate an agreement.

The league’s 32 player representatives took part in a conference call Thursday night that many were hopeful could result in an agreement to end the lockout. Regardless, the lockout won’t officially conclude until the league’s 1,900 players vote to recertify the union and then vote to approve the CBA; both need a simple majority to pass.

The players voted to disband the NFLPA — which now is considered a trade association limited to an advisory role — in March before the lockout began. That allowed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and others players to file an antitrust lawsuit against NFL.

The lawsuit is easy enough to dismiss, but recertification will take some doing.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he’d like recertification and then player approval of the CBA by July 27 so teams can open training camp.

“I cannot imagine that DeMaurice Smith is electing to pay all of those hours for his attorneys to negotiate an agreement that he and his membership then decide not to ratify,” said Jeff Pash, the NFL’s chief negotiator.

Smith, however, said earlier Thursday that recertification isn’t a foregone conclusion.

“Every individual person has to make a decision about whether they want to be part of a union,” Smith said. “Recommendations are made by the executive committee as advisors to the (players) or the board of directors as advisors to the (players). These are individual decisions . . . our players take extremely seriously.”

But even with Thursday’s cancellation of the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame Game, there is still little time to waste.

“There’s a sense of urgency to this,” Goodell said. “We want to have a full 2011 season that includes the four preseason games, and we’re up against the wall.”

Senior NFL editor Nancy Gay contributed to this report.