After meeting for more than eight hours, National Football League owners passed a resolution to end their four-month lockout on Thursday .
The league was prepared to hold a symposium for general managers to lay out the ground rules for re-opening business, but that meeting was push back until today.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank predicted before the meeting that the resolution would pass. He projected that that 400-plus page document would be approved by a majority of the owners. The owners needed 24 of the 32 owners to approve the deal.
“Yes, I think so” Blank told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution when asked if he felt the deal would get done today. “I’d be disappointed, like 330 million people in America, if it didn’t get done today.”
Now, the ball is in the players’ side of the field. They were set to hold a conference at 8 p.m. after they did not vote to approve the collective bargaining agreement in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
“ Hopefully, the players have gotten through their issues last night and will be in position to do their ratification this morning or today,” Blank said. “I don’t know what the timing of that is. I do know, I’ve read the same things you all have read, and that’s our general counsel (Jeff Pash) has said that the owners could ratify the deal first if necessary and then have the players approve it. It’s not what we expected, but if that’s the process, that’s the process.”
Some of the owners were not pleased with the tactics of the NFLPA.
“You can only control what you can control,” Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay said. “We’re optimistic and trying to do our part. There’s a lot of moving parts, but everything’s headed in the right direction.”
The Colts are set to host the next Super Bowl.
”We got our snowplows ready and our seats counted,” Irsay said, taking a not too veiled shot at Dallas owner Jerry Jones who hosted the problem-filled Super Bowl after last season. “I believe we’ll have it on time.”
Here are some of the issues standing in the way of a “Global Settlement”:
1. Settle the antitrust case the players filed after they were locked out on March 11.
2. Settle the television revenue case that the players viewed as lockout insurance by the owners. The players accused owners of setting up $4 billion in “lockout insurance.” The would have received the money if there were no games played in 2011.
3. What to do with the $320 million in benefits that the players would have received during the lockout.
4. Benefits for retired players.
5. Whether the Hall of Fame exhibition game will be canceled or postponed. The St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears are scheduled to open the exhibition season Aug. 7 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
6. Whether there was collusion to restrict salaries in 2010.
The league must address its business calendar, new free agency rules and a new rookie salary system.
After all of the issues were resolved, the NFLPA had to re-establish itself as a union and needed approval from a majority of the 1,900 players.
In March, when talks stalled, the NFLPA de-certified as a union and said it became a trade association. The move was necessary to allow players like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning to file the antitrust action against the league. The union must recertify because only an union can agree to collective bargaining agreement.
“That is not even in question,” Falcons player representative Tyson Clabo wrote in a text message to the AJC. “The entire league has to vote on that.”
Early during the meeting, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came outside the meeting room to chat with Jones and Blank.
The Falcons have 54 players under contract. They have 11 free agents and five drafted players. The team will be busy to reach the total of 90 players that they will be allowed to carry during the exhibition season.
“We have a group of football folks that are chomping at the bit,” Blank said. “They are not sleeping at night. They are ready to go. . .As soon as that whistle blows, we’re ready to go.”
Blank said the talks recently accelerated.
“I don’t know if it was a matter of losing money” Blank said. “I’m sure it was a factor indirectly. Directly, I think there’s a commitment from the league and the players as well to not lose games. I think the emotional and real stigma of losing football games, any part of our season in 2011, has been the burden and point of acceleration in terms of trying to get something done.”
Blank believes the resolution will lead to long-time labor peace.
“The nature of a 10-year deal really speaks to that,” Blank said. “It sends the right kind of message to our fans, our sponsors and folks that are committed to this wonderful game. They can focus on the game and not the labor situation for a very long time.”