By HOWARD FENDRICH/ AP Pro Football Writer
WASHINGTON-- The NFL was stuck in a holding pattern Fridayas the players studied the owner-approved proposal to end thelockout and tried to determine when -- and even whether -- to vote onit.
As it is, clubs already were being told not to expect players tobegin arriving at facilities Saturday, the day owners said gateswould open.
'Now it's just waiting,' Carolina Panthers general managerMarty Hurney said at an Atlanta hotel where team executives werebeing briefed on new rules for next season. 'Be flexible and waitand see what happens.'
The two sides were expected to be in contact as they tried toiron out remaining hang-ups preventing a deal. Owners ratified thetentative terms 31-0 -- the Oakland Raiders abstained -- on Thursday,provided players would give their OK, too, and re-establish theirunion.
But players decided later Thursday not to hold a vote, sayingthey hadn't had a chance to see a finished product.
By Friday, it was in hand.
'Player leadership is discussing the most recent writtenproposal with the NFL, which includes a settlement agreement, dealterms and the right process for addressing recertification,' NFLPlayers Association president Kevin Mawae said in a statementreleased by the group. 'There will not be any further NFLPAstatements today out of respect for the Kraft family while theymourn the loss of Myra Kraft.'
NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith attended Friday's funeral in Newton,Mass., for Kraft, the wife of New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft.
Even when players decide they're OK with a final agreement,their approval process is more complicated than the owners' was.
The 32 team reps will have to recommend accepting the settlement.
Then the 10 named plaintiffs in the players' lawsuit against theleague -- including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees -- mustofficially inform the court of their approval.
Eventually, all 1,900 players would take a majority vote toapprove returning the NFLPA to union status. When talks broke downin March, allowing the old collective bargaining agreement toexpire, the players dissolved the union, turning the NFLPA into atrade association. That's what allowed the players to sue theowners in federal court under antitrust law.
Only after the NFLPA is again a union can it negotiate certainparts of a new CBA. Among those items that are of most concern toplayers:
--the league's personal conduct policy;
--benefits, such as pension funds, the disability plan, and the
'88 Plan,' which provides money for care of former players withdementia or Alzheimer's disease.
The major economic framework for a 10-year deal was worked out aweek ago. That included how the more than $9 billion in annualleague revenues will be divided (about 53 percent to owners and 47percent to players over the next decade; the old CBA resulted innearly a 50-50 split); a per-club cap of about $120 million forsalary and bonuses in 2011 -- and at least that in 2012 and 2013 --plus about $22 million benefits; a salary system to rein inspending on first-round draft picks; and unrestricted free agencyfor most players after four seasons.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners expressed hopeThursday night that their vote would lead to a speedy resolution tothe NFL's first work stoppage since 1987. They called it anequitable deal that improves player safety and allows the sport toprosper even more.
'It is time to get back to football,' a weary Goodell said.
Already, one game is sure to be lost: The league called off theHall of Fame exhibition opener, scheduled for Aug. 7 between theChicago Bears and St. Louis Rams.