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Boylan, lawyers huddle in N.Y. in bid for NFL agreement

Judge Arthur Boylan arrives for the NFL labor talks. Judge Arthur Boylan arrives for the NFL labor talks. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)
By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / July 19, 2011

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The National Football League yesterday continued to inch toward a resumption of operations.

Lawyers from the NFL and NFL Players Association met with Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan in New York to work through the remaining details in a new collective bargaining agreement.

An agreement on the terms of settlement for the antitrust case, Brady v. NFL, could happen today or tomorrow morning. That would set the stage for the NFLPA to give its blessing of the new deal, followed by league owners.

The NFLPA began welcoming its 11-man executive committee to its headquarters in Washington, D.C., yesterday. They will study and debate the terms of the CBA today, and it could be spirited.

Tomorrow, each team’s player representatives to the NFLPA will be included in the discussion. They will help speed up the process of re-forming the NFLPA as a union, which is needed for the agreement to proceed.

The executive committee also will provide a recommendation for the 10 named plaintiffs in the Brady case, including Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and guard Logan Mankins.

How the settlement applies to Mankins, along with Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, will bear watching and has the potential to hold things up into next week.

Both have played six years and have yet to be free agents. After being restricted free agents when the rules changed in the 2010 uncapped year, Mankins and Jackson were tagged as franchise players before the lockout. Another team could sign them only if it were willing to surrender two first-round picks.

Both players could demand that the franchise tag be immediately removed, or settle for some other form of compensation. That could include additional money or possibly an agreement under which they never could be tagged by their teams again.

The Patriots, who have been deeply involved in the labor talks because of owner Robert Kraft’s constant presence, likely would be vehemently opposed to letting Mankins, their All-Pro left guard, become an unrestricted free agent.

Once the NFLPA gets everything in place and re-forms as a union, only a majority of players need to vote for the CBA for it to be approved.

The owners will meet in Atlanta Thursday, and 24 of the 32 teams need to approve the CBA for it to pass.

In anticipation of a new deal, the league sent a memo to all teams yesterday informing them that the rules of the new CBA will be explained in a seminar that will start 90 minutes after it is ratified, a league source said. The meeting, which will include up to four members of a team’s personnel staff, will conclude Friday.

The timeline for the resumption of league operations is still unknown, and is contingent on a new CBA and the global settlement of all outstanding legal matters between the NFL and NFLPA.

A league source said the tentative date for the start of free agency is July 28. A three-day window in which teams can re-sign their own free agents - and likely undrafted free agents and draft picks - would start this Monday.

The NFL and the players agreed to increase benefits to retired players by nearly $1 billion over the 10 years of the proposed CBA, ESPN.com reported. That would include $620 million for a “legacy fund’’ to help retired players deal with injuries and other hardships.

In a procedural move, the Brady plaintiffs filed for a summary judgment in their case without further evidence being introduced. The deadline was yesterday, and the request would be withdrawn when a settlement is reached.

Yesterday was the 128th day of the lockout.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @greg_a_bedard.

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