CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 04: A general view of the Carolina Panthers practice facility outside Bank of America Stadium as the NFL lockout looms on March 4, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
NEW YORK (AP) - Anticipation is high that the NFL's four-month lockout is about to end. Still, no one can be sure.
The players' executive committee was set to meet Monday in Washington after lawyers worked through the weekend on issues that are holding up a labor agreement with the owners. Several people with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press that no vote to recommend a deal is certain Monday.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the players association hasn't revealed its plans.
Among the final issues needing to be ironed out before anyone on the players' side - executive committee, player reps or the corps of some 1,900 players - would vote was the lack of an opt-out clause. The players have suggested such a provision after seven years of the 10-year agreement; owners opted out of the last collective bargaining agreement in 2008, eventually leading to the lockout that began March 12.
The tentative settlement owners approved last Thursday didn't have an opt-out. The owners hoped the NFLPA's executive committee will vote on that agreement on Friday, but the players said they need more information, and took issue with portions of the proposal.
Indeed, several players only saw that full proposal late Saturday.
Should the players' executive committee vote to accept the deal, it then would go to the 32 team representatives to approve, perhaps on Monday. After that, the total membership would need to vote, with a simple majority required for passage. Timing for that is uncertain, as well.
But a person with knowledge of the executive committee meeting said it will be "to understand where things stand after this weekend's conversations. No talk of not voting, no talk of vote."
The 10 named plaintiffs in the players' lawsuit against the league - including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees - must officially inform the court in Minneapolis of their approval of the pact, too.
Even after that, while training camps could be opened, a true CBA can't be agreed upon until the NFLPA re-establishes itself as a union. Players will need to vote to do so even as the sides put the finishing touches on a deal.
Only after the NFLPA is again a union can it negotiate such items as the league's personal conduct policy and drug testing.
Team facilities would open two days after the executive committee authorizes the deal, which would be Wednesday if a vote comes Monday. Players then can get physicals, sign union cards, receive playbooks, and agents can negotiate or renegotiate contracts. No contracts could be signed, however, until Saturday, when training camps would open if the NFLPA is back to being a union and the agreement is approved.
Teams also have not negotiated with their draft picks and have not signed undrafted free agents. With regular free agency going on concurrently, it will bring some frenzied times once an agreement has been ratified by both sides.
A solution to the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 would come too late to save the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 7. It was canceled last Thursday by the league.
However, no other cancellations would be needed, and only a few teams would have delayed the start of training camp. Three of those clubs - the Ravens, Giants and Jets - decided to remain at their regular facilities rather than hold camp at a different site.
The preseason is scheduled to begin Aug. 11 with Seattle at San Diego. Super Bowl champion Green Bay is set to host New Orleans in the regular-season kickoff on Sept. 8.
The major economic framework for the 10-year deal was worked out a week ago. That included how the more than $9 billion in annual league revenues will be divided (about 53 percent to owners and 47 percent to players over the next decade; the old CBA resulted in nearly a 50-50 split); a per-club cap of about $120 million for salary and bonuses in 2011 - and at least that in 2012 and 2013 - plus about $22 million in benefits; a salary system to rein in spending on first-round draft picks; and unrestricted free agency for most players after four seasons.
AP Pro Football Howard Fendrich and sports writers Larry Lage, Teresa Walker and John Wawrow contributed to this story.
Copyright Associated Press