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Trio in place to end NFL lockout

07.18.11 at 2:20 pm ET
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Arthur Boylan could be the most important man in sports this week.

All that needs to happen now is for the lawyers and judge to hammer out the agreement to end the four-month NFL lockout.

Lawyers for the NFL Players Association and the league met Monday at a Manhattan law firm while U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan – the court-appointed mediator – was expected to arrive in New York later Monday to oversee talks aimed at ending the NFL’s first work stoppage since one game was lost and replacement players were used for three weeks in 1987.

NFL owners have a special meeting set for Thursday in Atlanta, where they could ratify a new deal if one is in place.

Players and owners have come up with the framework of an agreement that resolves most of the issues that have been blocking a deal.

A new deal would reportedly include:

• A cap of approximately $120 million for player salaries in 2011, with about another $20 million in benefits.
• An agreement on the distribution of $9 billion in annual league revenue, estimated anywhere between 45-49 percent for players.
• A rookie salary system.
• A new set of free-agency rules

Any settlement must also be ratified by groups of players, including the named plaintiffs in a federal antitrust suit against the league, and the NFLPA’s 32 team representatives. There is also the matter of resolving pending lawsuits associated with the lockout and the players’ claim to $320 million in lost benefits from 2010.

The lockout officially began March 12, when negotiations broke down and the old collective bargaining agreement expired. The NFLPA announced it was “de-certifying” or dissolving itself and would no longer be a union that could bargain for all players under labor law. This allowed the players to bargain as a “trade association” – allowing players to battle the NFL in federal court under antitrust law.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were just two of the players whose names were on such a suit, trying to pressure owners to get to the bargaining table and end the work stoppage in the early stages. That suit would almost certainly be dropped along with other pending litigation once a new CBA is ratified.

Meanwhile, while lawyers meet in Manhattan, player reps and leaders are meeting in Washington, D.C. to talk as part of the NFLPA – the decertified union’s executive committee – and are expected to resume discussion into late Tuesday. Their mission is to educate the members of the executive committee who will in turn talk to the players reps. The player reps, in turn, will educate the teams.

CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman reports that players aren’t expected to vote on the new CBA until Friday at the earliest. Freeman also reports that players have told him that there remains a chance the start of training camps are slightly delayed.

Players need a majority vote and Freeman reported Monday that is “pretty close to 100 percent.”

Players and owners are trying to put together a tentative agreement in time to keep the preseason completely intact. The exhibition opener is scheduled to be the Hall of Fame game between the Rams and Bears on Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio and so far, no preseason games have been canceled.

The regular-season opener is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 8, when the last two Super Bowl champions meet, with the Super Bowl XLV champion Packers hosting the Saints at Lambeau Field.

Read More: Arthus Boylan, nfl, NFL labor, NFL lockout
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