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NFL, Nflpa hope for global settlement


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ESPN.com news services

July 18, 2011

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The sides in the NFL's labor dispute are amenable to rolling the remaining issues that are most problematic -- the settlement of the Brady vs. NFL antitrust lawsuit and the television "lockout insurance" damages case -- into a global settlement, sources familiar with the talks told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

A global settlement would mean that those two cases, along with the retired players' lawsuit and all other legal issues, would be dropped if the players ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, which is expected to cover the next 10 seasons. That would be the quickest way to get the lockout lifted.

If the remaining legal issues are not rolled into a global settlement, it would be a very bad sign, potentially even stopping progress.

Lawyers from both sides are meeting in New York on Monday to work on the unresolved issues.

The NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams Monday instructing key executives to attend Thursday's owners meeting in Atlanta, sources told Schefter. Each team will have two representatives (owner and one executive) in the room to vote on a CBA, if one is agreed to by players and owners. However, each team also will bring other front office personnel to the meeting to learn about the rules of a potential new CBA.

If the owners ratify a new CBA Thursday, players can begin arriving at facilities on Friday and team activities can begin as early as Monday, while free agency is going on.

Meanwhile, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will do "whatever is necessary," including traveling to Washington, where the NFL Players Association's executive committee is scheduled to meet Monday, sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan is expected to join negotiators in New York later Monday. Before departing for an overseas vacation on July 9, Boylan ordered a mediation session in Minneapolis on Tuesday. It had appeared that the mediation session would be canceled after the progress made in New York on Thursday and Friday, but sources say the hope is that mediation will nudge the two sides to a final agreement in time for the players to vote to recertify as a union and approve an agreement Wednesday.

According to sources, the two sides also could use Wednesday morning to finish their mediated negotiation session, if necessary.

The limit of franchise tags on the 10 named plaintiffs in the Brady antitrust lawsuit could be the anchor to a settlement to that case. That would result in named plaintiffs such as Drew Brees, Logan Mankins, Peyton Manning and Vincent Jackson not being subject to any free agent restrictions in 2012 if their respective teams do not sign them to long-term contracts.

U.S. District Judge David Doty's ruled in March that owners did not act in the best interests of players as directed by the previous CBA in creating "lockout insurance." The players have asked Doty to place $4 billion in escrow until the lockout is resolved but Doty has not ruled. It is possible the players will use this leverage to gain the restoration of $320 million in lost benefits from 2010, which is currently an unresolved issue among the sides.

Under a ratified agreement, teams would have an exclusive 72-hour window to negotiate contracts with their own free agents Friday before those players hit the open market at the start of league-wide free agency on July 25.

Also Monday, lawyers for NFL players said they want to file material under seal in response to a complaint by retired players who joined them in their antitrust lawsuit against the league.

Attorney Barbara Berens wrote Monday to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham requesting she grant the confidential material, because it's related to talks ongoing between NFL owners and current players to end the lockout.

The retired players filed a lawsuit two weeks ago against both the current players and the league, alleging the retirees were cut out of the mediation, violating a court order. The retired players have a hearing on their complaint scheduled before Graham on Aug. 8.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson combined the cases of the current and former players in April.

Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL Insider. Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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