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NFL owners OK labor deal, but players say not so fast

HIGHLIGHTS
OF THE DEAL

If approved by the players, the NFL’s new deal would cover the 2011-20 seasons and the ’21 draft.

ECONOMICS

• Salary cap plus benefits of $142.4 million per club in 2011 ($120.375 million for salary and bonuses) and at least that amount in 2012 and 2013.

• Beginning in 2012, salary cap to be set based on a combined share of “all revenue,” a new model differentiated by revenue source with no expense reductions. Players will receive 55 percent of national media revenue, 45 percent of NFL Ventures revenue and 40 percent of local club revenue.

• Players’ share must average at least 47 percent over the 10 years.

PLAYER AND HEALTH SAFETY:

• Reducing the offseason program by five weeks, reducing organized team activities from 14 to 10.

• Limiting on-field practice time and contact and limiting full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season.

• Increasing number of days off for players.

• No change to the 16-game regular-season/four-game preseason format until at least 2013; any subsequent increase in the number of regular-season games must be made by agreement with the NFL Players Association.

ENTRY LEVEL COMPENSATION SYSTEM:

• All drafted players sign four-year contracts; undrafted free agents sign three-year contracts.

• Maximum total compensation per draft class.

• Limited contract terms.

• Strong anti-holdout rules.

• Clubs have option to extend the contract of a first-round draftee for a fifth year, based on agreed-upon tender amounts.

Updated: October 27, 2011 12:33AM



ATLANTA — NFL owners poured out of a hotel ballroom Thursday evening, gushing about an overwhelming ratification of a settlement of litigation and a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement with players.

‘‘It’s been a long process, going back a couple of years — a lot of give and take,’’ said Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy, a member of the league’s negotiating team. ‘‘It’s an agreement that’s really fair to both sides. It’s a win-win.’’

But champagne wasn’t the only thing missing Thursday night. Players didn’t vote to approve the deal.

In fact, many players insisted the league was making a power play, not even providing the owner-approved CBA before a widely publicized conference call.

‘‘Here is what fans need to know,’’ New Orleans Saints fullback Heath Evans posted on Twitter. ‘‘Owners tried to slip many things into the CBA they voted on that were
NEVER agreed to.’’

Other players lamented that their leadership wasn’t keeping them abreast of the issues, while Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie was among those ready to vote.

‘‘I’d like to pre-emptively cast my vote for yes on any agreement put in front of me,’’ Hanie tweeted. ‘‘Let’s get to work.’’

While the 1,900-plus players reacted in an assortment of ways, the 32 owners and dozens of other top executives at the meeting relayed similar stories: They compromised on several terms in order to save the 2011 season, with the exception of the Hall of Fame game, which the Bears were scheduled to play in on Aug. 7 against the St. Louis Rams.

At best, the players approving the CBA as early as today is a formality. At worst, the owners’ actions Thursday could level the recent trust they have fostered with the players and point these negotiations down another dark road.

‘‘This was a big day, but there are some things that still need to be accomplished,’’ Bears chairman George McCaskey said. ‘‘Players have been sharing the load here, and in the spirit of compromise, that’s been huge.

‘‘When people decided to give a little, then everyone benefits. And the fans are going to benefit, because they’re going to get a full 2011 season. That’s huge.’’

Much like when the NFL voted to alter the kickoff rules, the Bears were diplomatic about the cancellation of the Hall of Fame game.

‘‘I think having every club —
given no offseasons for anyone — starting training camp at the same time makes sense,’’ Bears CEO and president Ted Phillips said. ‘‘From the standpoint of [Hall of Fame inductee] Richard Dent, we’re disappointed. I know he was looking forward to the team playing in his game, but it won’t take away from his great honor of being enshrined.’’

Murphy said the league felt it was best for all clubs to start playing at the same time.

‘‘It was really based on equity for every team,’’ he said.

Phillips said the Bears are ‘‘fine with that’’ rationale.

‘‘It’s new territory,’’ he said.

As he was among the last to leave the airport hotel, Phillips said he was elated and expressed excitement about the Bears’ immediate future.

‘‘We’re just ready to get started,’’ he said. ‘‘We think we have a good plan to improve our team, and we’re excited about the draft picks coming in. . . . We’ve covered every base, and now it’s about executing it.”

If the numbers in the deal the owners have ratified stand, the salary cap for 2011 will be $120.3 million. According to three league sources, the Bears will have more cap space than any other team in the NFC North — at least $22 million, according to two of the sources.

‘‘We’re not only in good shape in terms of the salary cap, but the work that Jerry Angelo, Tim Ruskell, Cliff Stein and the scouts have done just to prepare ourselves, whenever free agency starts, has been tremendous,’’ Phillips said. ‘‘So my hat’s off to them. I know we’re ready.’’

Asked if the Bears will make a major signing like they did last offseason, Phillips said, ‘‘I think we’ve got a good plan. But a Julius
Peppers only comes around once a decade.’’

Phillips added that the Bears would be ‘‘active,’’ although that’s not necessarily a choice because there will be a salary floor.

Other terms the owners approved include shortening the offseason program and limiting on-field practice time and contact. In addition, players will get more time off, and owners will, over 10 years, provide $900 million to $1 billion in benefits for retired players.

‘‘I can see things that I might like to have done differently,’’ said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who is on the league’s negotiating team. “But I guess I can rationalize and say that’s pretty good.

‘‘In the end, this is going to be a great place for players to play and have great careers. It’s going to be exciting to be a part of the future of the NFL. It’s going to be something NFL fans will really benefit from.’’



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