NFL Lockout: What Lockout? NFLPA Executive Committee Unanimously Approves CBA; Football Is Back!

For ongoing updates on the NFL Labor Negotiations, check out SB Nation.

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Lockout Is Over: NFLPA Unanimously Approves New CBA

The NFLPA Executive Committee, along with a player representative from each team, has just unanimously approved the recently agreed upon collective bargaining agreement, ending the four month old NFL lockout.

Now, teams may start signing free agents, rookies, and get ready for training camp. For the Vikings, that means between now and the opening of camp on Friday, they will have to sign all their draft picks, rookie free agents, their own free agents, and other free agents, like a veteran quarterback.

What normally takes place over the course of a few months will now take place in a few days, and guys like Rob Brzezinski and Rick Spielman will get no sleep for the next few days.

But we’ll be here for it all, and as Vikings news breaks, we’ll get it to you as fast as we can.

Buckle your seat belt, folks. It’s going to be a crazy few days.

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NFL Lockout: New CBA Reportedly Agreed Upon; Players To Vote Monday

End, the NFL's labor wars have.

Maybe.

According to numerous sources, including Mike Freeman of CBS Sports and Pro Football Talk, the NFL owners have reached an agreement with the NFLPA* regarding the final points of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and player representatives are flying to Washington, D.C. to vote on Monday.

By all accounts, there are no more things to be "worked out," no more "minor details to be put into place," or anything like that.

While we have not seen a new timeline for how things will occur when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is officially put into place, it is being said that players could start being allowed into team facilities as early as Wednesday. If that's the case, the NFL is apparently hoping to open free agency and training camps on Saturday, July 30, which is going to make things awfully interesting.

As we find out more news on this story, we will bring it to you here at SB Nation Minnesota, as well as insight on how it affects the Vikings directly over at The Daily Norseman.

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NFL Lockout: A Timeline Of Future Events

After more than four months of negotiations, it appears that the National Football League lockout could be coming to an end in the next 48 hours. If everything goes the way things are expected, here is what the next few days will look like.

Today (July 20) - The NFLPA* is currently discussing the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement, and they are expected to take a vote on it as well. There are no indicators to this point that it will not pass, so barring anything strange, half the job should be done by close of business today.

July 21 - The NFL owners will meet in Atlanta, and they will vote on the CBA as well. If 3/4 of the owners vote in favor of the proposal, then it will become official and the lockout will come to an end.

July 22 - NFL players will officially be able to report to their team facilities, meet with coaches, and get medical treatment from team staff. On this date, officials from the NFL teams will be given a course to get them familiar with the new CBA rules and what they mean for their teams. They will then have three days to get familiar with everything.

July 25 - A three-day window will open for teams to negotiate with and attempt to sign their own free agents. For the Minnesota Vikings, this will be crucial to whether or not the team will be able to retain wide receiver Sidney Rice. Defensive end Ray Edwards, who is also a free agent, appears to have one foot out the door already, but there is hope for the retention of Rice.

This will also be the time that teams will be able to sign undrafted college free agents, so that's something else for Viking fans to keep an eye on.

July 28 - The exclusive negotiation window will close, and you will see the start of the biggest free agency free-for-all the National Football League has ever seen.

July 31 - Vikings players are expected to report for Training Camp. . .which, to the best of our knowledge, is still being held on the campus of Minnesota State University in Mankato.

August 1 - The Vikings will hold their first practice of training camp.

The action will be happening fast and furious once things have settled, folks, so be sure to keep your eyes here and on The Daily Norseman (at the same time, if possible) for any breaking news that might happen.

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NFL Lockout: Potential CBA Details Emerging?

The National Football League owners are meeting in Chicago today to discuss a potential Collective Bargaining Agreement with the National Football League players. ESPN has gotten a hold of some of the particulars that are being pitched to the owners, and it looks like some significant concessions have been made.

Among the things that ESPN is hearing:

  • The percentage of the revenues that the players would receive is at 48%, without the $1 billion off of the top that the owners had been taking in the previous agreement. Also, the percentage of revenue that would go to the players would never drop below 46.5% according to the formula being pitched.
  • Teams would be required to spend somewhere between 90% and 93% of the salary cap.
  • A rookie wage scale is part of the deal, but is apparently being "tweaked" at this point in time.
  • An 18-game regular season is not part of the deal. It is designated as a negotiable item but at no point becomes mandated.
  • There will be a new 16-game Thursday night package starting in 2012, replacing the 8-game package that we have on Thursday nights. It will also, apparently, not be on the NFL Network, but it will be up for grabs instead.
  • Owners will still get some sort of credit in order to help them fund new stadiums (good news for fans of the Minnesota Vikings, among others).
  • Players with four, five, and six years of service in the NFL are expected to become free agents (per Adam Schefter via Twitter).

Hopefully, something will be worked out on the labor front soon, allowing teams to have a full pre-season to get themselves ready for 2011.

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NFL Labor Negotiations: Judge Nelson Denies Stay

Late on Wednesday evening, Judge Susan Nelson denied the National Football League's request for a stay of the ruling that allowed the NFL Lockout to continue.

What does that mean? It means that, for now, the lockout is still lifted, but the NFL is expected to appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court and ask them for a stay of the previous ruling as well.

NFL Spokesman Greg Aiello released the following statement to the media, indicating that the league is taking Judge Nelson's ruling quite seriously.

"We are filing tonight a request with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of the preliminary injunction pending our appeal," Aiello said.  "We believe there are strong legal and practical reasons that support a stay and that the Court of Appeals should have an opportunity to address the important legal issues that will be presented.  We have asked the Court of Appeals to consider on an expedited basis both our request for a stay and the appeal itself.  We are evaluating the District Court’s decision and will advise our clubs in the morning on how to proceed."

(Hat tip to Pro Football Talk for the story.)

What does this mean? Well, the league will be advising their teams on how to proceed on Thursday, but from the content of the ruling, it appears that the 2011 league year is supposed to be getting underway in very short order. It also means that, with the draft coming up this evening, it is possible that trades for players that are currently under contract could be allowed, which is something that would not have happened had a stay been issued and the lockout allowed to continue the way it had been.

We still need to know what rules things like free agency will be conducted under and things of that nature, as that could have a dramatic effect on certain teams and certain players. If business is to be conducted under last season's rules, many players that thought they would be eligible for unrestricted free agency under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will find themselves as restricted free agents instead. This is notable in the case of the Vikings for wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Ray Edwards, both of whom would be restricted free agents under last year's rules rather than unrestricted, thus increasing their chances of staying with Minnesota.

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NFL Labor Negotiations: NFL To Appeal Judge Nelson's Ruling

In what comes as a surprise to absolutely nobody, the National Football League has already released a statement seeking their intention to appeal this afternoon's ruling. That statement, in its entirety, is as follows:

We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree.  But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.

It should be interesting to see this. While a stay would allow the lockout to continue, players won't necessarily to be banging down the door to play under last year's rules, which the owners are expected to implement in the event that the lockout is lifted.

In the specific case of the Minnesota Vikings, two people that certainly wouldn't be pleased with playing under last year's rules would be wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Ray Edwards. Why? Because under last year's rules, neither one of them would be eligible for unrestricted free agency. Instead, they would both be restricted free agents, both of whom have already been tendered by the Vikings. We have more specifics on that over at The Daily Norseman for your reading pleasure.

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NFL Labor Negotiations: Judge Susan Nelson Sides With Players, Lifts Lockout

The NFLPA. . .er, the NFL Players Trade Association or whatever it is they're calling themselves now. . .got exactly the ruling they wanted from Judge Susan Nelson today in Minneapolis.

Judge Nelson ruled that the NFL owners need to lift the current NFL lockout and allow player transactions to take place, as well as allow players to work out at team facilities and all of the other things that they would have been allowed to do had the lockout not taken place.

However, there will certainly be an appeal by the owners, who will not only appeal Judge Nelson's ruling, but also ask for a stay of the previous verdict.  If the appellate court doesn't grant a stay, then the owners will have to put some sort of system in place to facilitate player transactions and player movement, whether it's based on last year's system or some sort of other arrangement. If the stay is granted, then basically nothing changes. . .the lockout will remain in place while Judge Nelson's ruling is being appealed.

For more up to the minute news on the NFL lockout and the fallout from this ruling, be sure to keep your eye on SB Nation's NFL Labor news stream, which is updated instantaneously when new news on the situation becomes available.

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NFL Labor Negotiations: DeMaurice Smith Gives Union Perspective

NFLPA representative DeMaurice Smith has offered a couple of statements, which we present to you now in video form.

 

So, the union wanted a whole lot of financial data from the owners, and the owners decided they didn't want to give it up. It appears that's pretty much what this is going to come down to.

There are no winners at this point in time, but I can tell you for darn sure that the losers here are all of us fans. These two sides have known what was coming for a very long time, and at the end of the day, they simply couldn't figure out how to divide. . .get this. . .nine billion dollars. We should all have such problems.

The next step for this is to head into the courtroom, folks. It's going to be a long process, it's going to get ugly, and we're not going to see football for a very long time.

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NFL Labor Negotiations: NFL Releases Statement

The National Football League has released a statement in response to today's events. It reads as follows:

The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process.  Unfortunately, the players’ union has notified our office that at 4pm ET it had “decertified” and is walking away from mediation and collective bargaining, presumably to initiate the antitrust litigation it has been threatening to file. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, the clubs offered a deal that would have had no adverse financial impact upon veteran players in the early years and would meet the players’ financial demands in the latter years.

The union left a very good deal on the table. It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).

The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.

The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes.

At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham ‘decertification’ and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement.

The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached. The NFL calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.

So, there's the league's point of view. I'm sure the NFLPA. . .or whatever it is now that it has decertified. . .will have something similar coming shortly.

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NFL Labor Update: NFLPA Files Paperwork To Decertify

After knowing what was potentially coming for a full year, the National Football League players and owners apparently still couldn't come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, and now it doesn't look like we're going to be getting football for a very long time.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, among other sources, have reported that the National Football League Players Association. . .i.e. the players' union. . .has filed paperwork in federal court in Minneapolis to decertify itself, opening the way for anti-trust lawsuits against the National Football League and its owners.

DeMaurice Smith said that the NFL owners had until 4 PM Central time to turn over ten years of audited financial paperwork, or the players would not agree to another extension of negotiations, similar to the one that was reached a week ago. It doesn't appear that the owners have complied with those demands, because the decertification of the players' union is, apparently, underway.

This means that we're likely in for months of legal wrangling and courtroom battles, all of which could potentially put the 2011 NFL season in some serious jeopardy.

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

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NFL Labor Update: Smith Says Eighteen-Game Schedule Not An Option

Although the owners had never formally proposed anything along those lines, NFLPA representative DeMaurice Smith said just a little while ago that an 18-game schedule is not something that the players would agree to in CBA negotiations.

"First of all, the league has never presented a formal proposal for 18 games," he told SI.com. "But more importantly, it's something that our players don't want. Eighteen games is not in the best interest of our players' safety, so we're not doing it."

Well, if the league had never actually presented anything like this, then why would Smith make a statement like this now?

One also has to wonder if this will become a sticking point in negotiations down the track. The owners and the players, for all of our optimism, don't seem to be that much closer to a deal, and we're less than two days away from the deadline imposed by both sides to get a deal done. The official "drop dead" time is 4 PM Central time on Friday.

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NFL Labor Update: Owners And Players Agree On Rookie Wage Scale

We've done a breakdown of the reported rookie wage scale over at The Daily Norseman, but here are some of the highlights.

-Contracts for first-round draft picks will be limited to four years, after which players will become unrestricted free agents. Currently, players drafted in the first half of Round One can sign for as long as six years, and players in the bottom half of Round One can sign for up to five years.

-Contracts for everyone else drafted will be limited to three years, after which the player will become a restricted free agent.

-There will also be language in the deal that will limit the amount of guaranteed money and signing bonuses that will go to rookie players.

In a peripherally related matter, there will also be language that will make it easier for owners to recoup money from players that run afoul of the law. (See also: Vick, Michael)

It's not a huge step or anything like that, but any progress is good progress as we're now about 48 hours away from the latest deadline to get a new CBA completed.

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NFL Labor Negitiations: Players And Owners Agree To Second Extension Of Talks

Armageddon has been averted once more, this time by at least a week.

Both sides in the NFL labor negotiations have agreed to extend the current Collective Bargaining Agreement for seven more days, according to numerous sources. The deadline was yesterday, initially, and was extended until today to allow both sides to continue negotiating. This seven-day extension will allow both sides to continue talking and, hopefully, come to an agreement to avoid a lockout of the players and decertification of the players union.

By all accounts, this is going to be the last extension of these talks. By this time next week, either we'll be talking about a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (or, better yet, not talking about the CBA at all), or we'll be talking about the players being locked out and the union being decertified.

Hopefully, this means that the two sides are making progress. . .one would think that, if they weren't, they wouldn't agree to keep talking. Can they get this thing settled in seven days? We're all going to find out.

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NFL Labor News: Players Agree To Second Extension; Awaiting Word From Owners?

That's what's being reported by Sports Business Journal, in any event (courtesy of SB Nation). Federal mediator George Cohen has recommended a seven to ten day extension in order to get the new Collective Bargaining Agreement hammered out, and the players are now awaiting word from the owners as to whether or not they'll accept that extension as well.

In addition to being a bit of good news for football fans, it's also a pretty savvy PR move by the players. Now, if the owners don't agree to an extension and decide to lock the players out regardless, the players can turn around and say, "Well, we tried to work something out, but the owners just didn't want to negotiate with us, so now there might not be a season."

Don't think that the owners don't know that.

If the owners agree to this extension, negotiations will continue for the next week to ten days. If they don't. . .well, then the CBA expires at 11 PM Central time, the union would probably decertify before that (the deadline for that is 3 PM Central), and who knows what would happen at that point.

Stay tuned right here for any updates.

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NFL Labor Negotiations: Second Extension Being Discussed?

Pro Football Talk is reporting that the NFL Players Association and the NFL owners are on the verge of extending the deadline for negotiations once again, possibly for another week or more. The two sides agreed to a 24-hour extension yesterday in order to avoid a lockout by the owners and/or the decertification of the NFLPA.

If the NFLPA still plans on decertifying itself in order to avoid a lockout, the deadline for that is at 3 PM Central time this afternoon. Otherwise, the NFLPA would not be able to decertify itself for six months.

As things stand now, all league transactions have been halted, as yesterday did mark the end of the league year, if not the end of the negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. So, there will be no more player signings, player trades, player releases, or any other transactions until such time that a new CBA is hammered out.

Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports is under the impression that a deal is "highly achievable."

Sources on both sides of the conflict agreed on one basic premise: If enough progress is made that another short-term CBA extension – perhaps a week, perhaps two – is announced by Friday night, the players and owners will almost certainly be headed for a settlement that will result in a multi-year deal before the end of this month.

If not, as one person familiar with the negotiations put it, "It will be Armageddon." The union will decertify and file a class-action, anti-trust lawsuit against the owners, who’ll issue a legal challenge to the validity of the act while implementing a lockout (or de facto lockout). A long, bitter standoff would likely ensue, and the 2011 season could be threatened.

Given the lose-lose nature of the latter scenario, the smart money is on a settlement. And while the situation remains delicate, for the first time key figures in each camp believe a deal is highly achievable.

For the sake of us football fans, I certainly hope that Mr. Silver is right.

We'll have more on this as the situation develops.

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