Football is back -- NFL players approve CBA

July 25, 2011, 5:56 pm
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The longest work stoppage in National Football League history is, well, history.The NFL's owners and players agreed Monday to a new collective bargaining agreement that guarantees no regular-season games will be missed and could create labor peace for at least 10 years.The owners announced an agreement to a proposal on Thursday by a 31-0 vote, with Raiders owner Al Davis abstaining. The players initially reacted with disbelief that the proposal contained a "supplemental revenue sharing" system for the owners that was never discussed in negotiations with the players.EXCLUSIVE: NFL lockout transition rules
But after two days of continued negotiations to settle on the final elements of the day, the players' executive committee re-convened in Washington on Monday to vote to ratify the CBA.""I know it has been a very long process since the day we stood here that night in March," NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith said. "But our guys stood together when nobody thought we would. And football is back because of it."
Both Bay Area football teams were originally scheduled to open training camp this week. The Raiders, scheduled to open the exhibition season Thursday, Aug. 11, at home against the Arizona Cardinals, were originally scheduled set to open training camp Wednesday in Napa.Meanwhile, the 49ers were scheduled to open training camp Thursday in Santa Clara. The 49ers' first exhibition game is set for Friday, Aug. 12, at the New Orleans Saints.Thus concludes the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987. The labor dispute had been brewing since the owners informed the players in May 2008 they would exercise their contractual right to opt out of the deal they signed two years earlier.As a result the final two years of the CBA were voided. The only official NFL activity since last season was the annual draft, as the owners imposed a lockout on March 12.RELATED: Letter to fans from 49ers president Jed York
After CBA talks were initially extended beyond March 3, the scheduled end of the 2010 league year, negotiations stalled. The NFL Players Association, led by executive director Smith, decertified as a union.The owners' side, represented by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, imposed a lockout, which prohibited team employees from any contact with players.Ten plaintiffs, headlined by Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, countered with an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL. Both sides agreed on one thing, though: The dispute would ultimately be settled at the negotiating table.And that is exactly what happened.The new CBA brings back many of the rules that were in place through the 2009 season. (The rules were altered for 2010, which was an uncapped year after the owners' opted out.)The salary cap returns to the NFL. The sides have agreed on a 120.375 million cap for 2011 per team. All teams will have approximately 3.5 million in what would otherwise be performance-based pay available to fund veteran player salaries. And for the first two years of the agreement, clubs may "borrow" up to 3 million in cap room from a future year, which may be used to support veteran player costs.The players accepted 142.4 million per team in player costs, as owners will contribute an additional 22 million per team in benefits.There will be unrestricted free agency for unsigned players after four accrued seasons. Clubs will still have the ability to use the franchise and transition tags to limit key veterans.The biggest issue that the owners and players resolved was the split of the revenue pie. The league grosses approximately 9 billion annually. But with the NFL's television contracts expiring after the 2013 season, the money is expected to sky-rocket in the coming years.In the previous CBA, the owners received 1 billion off the top and then the players got 59.6 percent of the rest of the money generated by the NFL.The owners initially sought an additional 1 billion, while the players offered to take 50 percent of the league's earnings without the owners receiving the 1 billion credit.Ultimately, the players agreed to a split of at least 47-percent of all revenue for the 10-year agreement.One aspect of the salary cap is that there is also a salary floor. Teams are prohibited from investing too much or too little on player compensation. For the 2013-2016 seasons and again for the 2017-2020 seasons, the clubs collectively will commit to cash spending of at least 95 percent of the cap.Other key elements of the deal include:--Offseason programs were reduced by five weeks, and the number of organized team activities -- or offseason practices -- has been reduced from 14 to 10. The league has also limited the on-field practice time and contact allowed during those practices. Teams will no longer be allowed to conduct two padded practices per day in training camp. There are an increased number of days off for the players. Also, a 50 million per year joint fund has been established for medical research, health care programs and NFL Charities, including NFLPA-related charities.--The NFL and its players agreed to additional funding for retiree benefits of between 900 million and 1 billion. the largest amount, 620 million, will be used for the new "Legacy Fund," which will be devoted increasing pensions for pre-1993 retirees.--The sides agreed on a new rookie wage system to reduce the size of contracts for the top picks. Last year, quarterback Sam Bradford, the top overall pick, received a six-year, 78 million contract with 50 million guaranteed from the St. Louis Rams before playing a down. The size of top rookie contracts this year will be approximately half. All drafted players will sign four-year contracts. Clubs will have the option of extending the contract of a first-round pick for a fifth year, based on agreed-up tender amounts. The compensation levels of the drafted rookies will be largely fix, thus there will not be much negotiations involved.--The regular season will remain at 16 games, with four exhibition games, until at least 2013. Any subsequent increase in the number of regular season-games must be made by agreement with the players' approval. However, the league can unilaterally reduce the number of exhibition games.

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