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NFL, players zero in on labor deal, but complex issues remain

Lawyers for the NFL and its players met Monday in New York, but several issues still must be resolved before the parties can ratify a full collective bargaining agreement. According to sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations, some of those remaining items are sufficiently complicated and could require more than a few days to settle.

Among the issues still to be figured out:

» Settling the Brady et al v. National Football League et al case: The plaintiffs in the case are looking for damages or other reparations as part of the case, according to sources close to several of the named plaintiffs. Specifically, San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson and New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins don't want to be franchised after being limited by the 2010 uncapped years. Meanwhile, New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora wants assurances that he'll either receive a new contract or be traded.

The idea that this class will simply sign off on a new labor deal without having individual circumstances addressed isn't being embraced by the NFL Players Association, and some sources on the players' side believe these legal matters could linger into next week given the opposite stances at play.

These plaintiffs weren't chosen haphazardly, and the lawyers realize that Mankins, Jackson and Umenyiora all have owners who are on the NFL Management Council Executive Committee and directly involved in negotiations. The players also want language enforced that would prohibit teams from franchising a player more than once.

» The TV rights fees case, in U.S. District Judge David Doty's court, remains an issue. That decision could hold more money in the balance than all the economic factors that held up these labor talks for months -- hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. That doesn't make for an easy negotiation. One source suggested that both sides must far exceed even last week's breakneck pace of negotiations to settle this issue in time for Thursday's owners meeting in Atlanta, when the league would like to ratify a deal.

» There's also the issue of $320 million in lost benefits from the uncapped year, and the question of whether or not the NFLPA will reconstitute itself as a union -- and, if so, how that process will be conducted.

» The sides also are grappling over workers' compensation. Players have traditionally filed all claims in California, where laws are favorable to employees over employers. The league wants to have these claims handled in the state where the player is employed or where he was injured.

Furthermore, details regarding the powers of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in matters of off-the-field discipline, and some more minor issues regarding transition rules that would take teams and players from the lockout and into the start of the league year must be finalized, along with offseason procedures.

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