New York (AP) – Buffalo safety George Wilson likes what he sees and hears about the players’ recent discussions with the owners to end the lockout. The Bills’ player representative also cautions against getting swept away by expectations of an imminent settlement.
“We’re definitely optimistic we’re moving in the right direction,” Wilson told The Associated Press on Saturday. “Right now we feel like we’re having meaningful discussions. … We feel we have the right people in the room, discussing the right things and both sides want to get a deal done. But even though we’re moving in the right direction, we’re not there yet.”
Wilson said conference calls held in the last two days mark the first time in a while players have been briefed on a lockout that is in its fourth month.
“That’s because there haven’t been any developments the last little while,” he said.
The players also were told more updates will come next week, when Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, several owners and players are to meet again at an undisclosed location.
“There’s definitely going to be talks every week because time is of the essence,” Wilson said.
One person with knowledge of the discussions told the AP “not much progress” was made in the fourth round of recent meetings, in Hull, Mass. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are supposed to be confidential.
The key issue is how to divide revenues — the league took in about $9.3 billion last year. One person familiar with the owners’ proposal told the AP on Tuesday that the players’ share would approach the 50 percent the NFLPA has said it has received throughout the last decade. But the expense credits — about $1 billion last year — that the league takes off the top would disappear.
Also, there would no longer be “designated revenues” from which the players would share. Instead, the players would share from the entire pool of income, which both sides project will grow significantly over the course of a new CBA. If the players are taking 48 percent of a much higher revenue stream, for example, and there is not initial NFL deduction for operating expenses, the players still would receive far more money than they got under the previous agreement.
A salary floor requiring teams to spend within 90 percent of the cap in cash also would be included. The players have been concerned that some teams whose revenue streams don’t match up with the richer clubs would try to hold down salary spending.
Players also were updated on the conference calls about discussions of a rookie wage scale; parameters for free agency; health benefits for current and retired players; and the salary cap.
“The CBA is far from just a percentage of revenue,” Wilson said. “There’s so much more.”
Training camps are scheduled to open in about one month. The Ravens and Jets said they will remain at their in-season facilities rather than head out of town. Baltimore won’t go to Winchester, Md., and New York won’t go to Cortland, N.Y.
The first preseason game, Chicago vs. St. Louis, is Aug. 7 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions in Canton, Ohio.