COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — A person familiar with the negotiations tells The Associated Press that that players didn’t vote Thursday on a tentative agreement to end the NFL lockout because they had not seen the full proposal approved by owners.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is supposed to be secret.
Owners overwhelmingly voted for a tentative agreement earlier Thursday, pending an OK from the players.
Players originally had been expected to vote Wednesday, but didn’t because there were unresolved issues. They held a conference call after the owners voted.
Before the call began, NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith wrote in an email to the 32 team representatives: “There is no agreement between the NFL and the players at this time.”
Thursday’s owners vote was 31-0, with the Oakland Raiders abstaining from the ratification, which came after a full day of meetings at an Atlanta-area hotel. While owners pored over the terms, Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke on the phone several times with Smith, including filling him in on the results of the vote before it was announced.
“Hopefully, we can all work quickly, expeditiously, to get this agreement done,” Goodell said. “It is time to get back to football. That’s what everybody here wants to do.”
Goodell said the teams will be prepared to open training facilities Saturday and begin the league year Wednesday.
Undrafted rookie free agents could be signed starting Sunday.
The free agency signing period would begin Wednesday.
Goodell said the Hall of Fame Game, the preseason opener on Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio, between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears has been canceled.
Preseason games start Aug. 11-15, which includes the Dallas Cowboys home game against the Denver Broncos.
Under the scenario, the NFL regular season would begin as scheduled, Sept. 8, with the game between the New Orleans Saints at the Green Bay Packers.
The owners locked out players on March 12. During that time, teams weren’t allowed to communicate with current NFL players; players — including those drafted in April — could not be signed; and teams did not pay for players’ health insurance.
The basic framework for the league’s new economic model — including how to split more than $9 billion in annual revenues — was set up during negotiations last week. But final issues involved how to set aside three pending court cases, including the antitrust lawsuit filed against the NFL in federal court in Minnesota by Tom Brady and nine other players.
NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the owners’ understanding is that that court case will be dismissed.
One thing the owners originally sought and won’t get, at least right away, is expanding the regular season from 16 games to 18. That won’t change before 2013, and the players must agree to a switch.
“These things, by their very nature, aren’t supposed to make you necessarily happy when you walk out the door. It was a negotiation,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I don’t mean to sound negative, but it isn’t exactly like Christmas has come along here.”
Goodell also announced that owners approved a supplemental revenue-sharing system, something Smith noted in his email to team reps. “Obviously, we have not been a part of those discussions,” he wrote.
Even after all acceptable terms are established, a deal would lead to a new CBA only if NFLPA team reps recommend re-establishing the group as a union, which must be approved by a majority vote of the 1,900 players.
The deal makes significant changes in offseason workout schedules, reducing team programs by five weeks and cutting organized team activities (OTAs) from 14 to 10 sessions. There will be limited on-field practice time and contact, and more days off for players.
Current players will be able to stay in the medical plan for life. They also will have an injury protection benefit of up to $1 million of a player’s salary for the year after his injury and up to $500,000 in the second year after his injury.
A total of $50 million per year will go into a joint fund for medical research, health-care programs, and charities.
If the players approve the deal, the NFL will go back to the business football pretty quickly:
—On Saturday, teams can stage voluntary workouts at club facilities, and players may be waived. Contracts can be re-negotiated and clubs can sign draft picks and their own free agents. Teams can also negotiate with, but not sign, free agents from other clubs and undrafted rookies.
—On Sunday, teams can sign undrafted rookies.
—On Wednesday, the league year officially begins, so free agency opens in full, and all training camps will open with a 90-man roster limit; activities that day will be limited to physicals, meetings and conditioning. All clubs must be under the salary cap.
—Players can practice without pads next Thursday and Friday.