By HOWARD FENDRICH and BARRY WILNER-
Two people familiar with talks to end the NFL lockout tell The Associated Press that if an agreement is ratified by Thursday, team executives will be briefed starting that day on how the deal’s terms affect league business.
The people said the league’s 32 clubs were told Monday that topics would include the rookie salary system and guidelines for player transactions. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the process is supposed to remain confidential.
Owners are scheduled to hold a special meeting in Atlanta on Thursday, when they could ratify a new labor contract — if one is reached by then. Club executives would be briefed in Atlanta on Thursday and Friday.
Any tentative agreement also must be approved by players, including star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and the remaining plaintiffs in a federal antitrust suit against the league.
Two other people, who have knowledge of the NFL Players Association’s plans, told the AP that representatives of every team were expected to meet Wednesday in Washington, in preparation for a possible vote. Those people also spoke on condition of anonymity.
Lawyers for the NFLPA and owners met Monday at a Manhattan law firm to work on ending the four-month lockout, the sport’s first work stoppage since 1987. They were joined in the afternoon by the court-appointed mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.
One issue standing in the way of a resolution, according to one person from each side of the dispute: Players want owners to turn over $320 million in benefits that weren’t paid during the 2010 season. Because there was no salary cap that season, the old collective bargaining agreement said NFL teams were not required to pay those benefits.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith spoke to each other on the telephone Monday and were planning to keep in regular contact.
Also Monday, the NFL filed a request with the Minnesota court to grant its lawyers an extension of a week to file their formal response to the antitrust lawsuit. The original deadline was Monday.
Players and owners have come up with the framework of an agreement that resolves most of their differences.
The areas they’ve figured out include:
— how the more than $9 billion in annual league revenues will be divided, with somewhere from 46.5 to 48.5 percent going to players, depending on how much the total take from TV contracts and other sources rises or falls;
— a structure for rookie contracts that will rein in soaring salaries for high first-round draft picks;
— free agency rules that allow most four-year veterans to negotiate with any team;
— a cap of about $120 million per team for player salaries in 2011, with about another $20 million per team in benefits.
The lockout began March 12, when negotiations broke down and the old CBA expired. The NFLPA announced it was dissolving itself and would no longer be a union that could bargain for all players under labor law, instead saying it was now a trade association. That allowed players to take their chances against the NFL in federal court under antitrust law.
The sides are trying to forge a new deal in time to keep the preseason completely intact. The exhibition opener is scheduled to be the Hall of Fame game between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears on Aug. 7, and as of Sunday, no preseason games had been canceled.
The regular season opener is scheduled for Sept. 8, when the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers are to host the New Orleans Saints.
AP Sports Writers Rachel Cohen, Teresa Walker, Larry Lage, John Wawrow and Tom Canavan contributed to this report.
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(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)