|(File/Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press)|
Brady leading chorus for deal
He joins Manning, Brees in pressuring owners
NEW YORK - Calling the players’ offer “fair for both sides,’’ star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees - plaintiffs in an antitrust suit against the NFL - said yesterday “it is time’’ to wrap up negotiations on a deal to end the league’s lockout.
At the bargaining table, though, it wasn’t that easy.
On the day Brady, Manning and Brees spoke as a group publicly for the first time, players and owners spent nearly 11 hours meeting at a Manhattan law office.
About two hours after players’ association chief DeMaurice Smith left, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walked out with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the league’s lead negotiator Jeff Pash at 10 p.m.
Other owners including Pittsburgh’s Art Rooney and Carolina’s Jerry Richardson departed around then, too. The Patriots’ Robert Kraft was also at the meeting.
Negotiations were scheduled to resume this morning. With each passing day, the need to strike a bargain and end the lockout becomes greater.
Deadlines are coming up next week to get training camps and the exhibition season started on time. Although it seems the sides have agreed on the basic elements of how to split more than $9 billion in annual revenues, among the key sticking points recently have been how to structure a new rookie salary system and what free agency will look like.
In a statement released via the NFL Players Association, Brady, Manning and Brees said: “We believe the overall proposal made by the players is fair for both sides and it is time to get this deal done.’’
They continued: “This is the time of year we as players turn our attention to the game on the field. We hope the owners feel the same way.’’
In response, the NFL issued a statement saying: “We share the view that now is the time to reach an agreement so we can all get back to football and a full 2011 season. We are working hard with the players’ negotiating team every day to complete an agreement as soon as possible.’’
Brady, Manning and Brees are among 10 players named plaintiffs in an antitrust suit that is pending in federal court in Minnesota. That class-action lawsuit was filed March 11, hours after federally mediated negotiations to arrive at a new collective bargaining agreement broke down, and the old labor contract expired. The NFLPA immediately dissolved itself, meaning players no longer were protected under labor law but instead were allowed to take their chances under antitrust law.
On March 12, the owners imposed a lockout on the players. During the lockout, there can be no communication between the teams and current NFL players; no players - including those drafted in April - can be signed; teams won’t pay for players’ health insurance.
A series of court rulings followed, including one last week from an appeals court that said the lockout could continue.
Talks gained steam in May, overseen by a court-appointed mediator, US Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, who is on vacation this week. Boylan ordered both sides to speak with him in Minneapolis Tuesday, and the owners have a special meeting set for next Thursday in Atlanta, where they could vote to ratify a new deal if one is reached.
That means there’s intense pressure on Smith and Goodell to keep things moving in a positive direction.