July 20, 2011

WASHINGTON -- A confusing afternoon ended Wednesday with NFL player representatives conditionally voting to forward a settlement agreement to the plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit against the league.

One issue the reps want resolved before taking a formal vote is the $320 million the players lost in benefits last year during the non-salary cap season. The players would like to recoup that money.

However ...

It's also possible the players could take a formal vote even if the matter isn't resolved by Thursday morning. An affirmative vote would endorse the proposed settlement and send it to the 10 named plaintiffs for their approval or rejection.

The league is hopeful that plaintiffs will sign off on the settlement so that the owners can vote on it during their meetings in Atlanta on Thursday (The league has said it might vote before the players do.). A positive vote there would move the league one step closer to lifting the four-month-old lockout.

The confusion arose late in the afternoon when The Associated Press reported that the players would wait at least one day to vote, based on comments from at least one player who left the meeting early to catch a flight. However later in the day the members still in attendance took a conditional vote to forward the proposed settlement to the plaintiffs.

A potential stumbling block could be Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Patriots guard Logan Mankins, plaintiffs who reportedly want financial settlements before signing off on the settlement. Neither could be reached for comment, but Jackson tweeted Tuesday night that he has made "no demands" and wants to be on the field like every other player.

A source familiar with the situation disputed that and said Jackson's camp indeed is seeking to have his situation addressed. Like with so many things associated with these settlement talks, it has been hard to find the fires amid the smoke.

Tuesday was the first day that players representing all 32 teams got a chance to see the settlement proposal, and sources said the discussion among them was emotional at times. The players are expected to take a 3 percent to 4 percent annual cut in their share of the revenues, and representatives wanted to know specific details about what players were getting in return.

Details of the proposed settlement have not been made public, but the reps apparently heard enough positive points that they voted to proceed with recommending the terms if a few remaining issues can be resolved.

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