NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees say “it is time” for NFL owners and players to wrap up negotiations on a deal to end the league’s lockout.
The three star quarterbacks are among 10 players who are named plaintiffs in an antitrust suit against the NFL that is pending in federal court in Minnesota.
In a statement released to The Associated Press via the NFL Players Association on Wednesday, New England’s Brady, Indianapolis’ Manning and New Orleans’ 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.”
The statement 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.”
Brady, Manning and Brees spoke out as a group publicly for the first time as representatives of players and owners gathered Wednesday morning at a Manhattan office building for the latest round of talks aimed at resolving the fourth-month lockout. It’s the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987, and negotiations are at a critical phase.
Deadlines are coming up next week to get training camps and the preseason started on time. While it appears that 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.
Federally mediated negotiations to arrive at a new collective bargaining agreement broke down March 11, and the old labor contract expired. The NFLPA immediately dissolved itself, meaning players no longer are protected under labor law but instead are now allowed to take their chances under antitrust law. That day, Brady, Manning, Brees and others filed their class-action lawsuit.
On March 12, the owners imposed a lockout on the players, a right management has to shut down a business when a CBA expires.
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 resumed in May, overseen by a court-appointed mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, who is on vacation this week.
Boylan ordered both sides to speak with him in Minneapolis next Tuesday, and the owners have a special meeting set for July 21 in Atlanta, where they could vote to ratify a new deal if one is reached. That means there’s intense pressure on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith to keep things moving in a positive direction.
Disruptions to the planned preseason schedule would decrease the overall revenue pie.
Smith was among those arriving Wednesday morning for talks, along with powerful team owners Robert Kraft of the Patriots, John Mara of the New York Giants and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)