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No clear timeline for labor deal as players vet owners' proposal

NFL Players Association lawyers and officials are digesting the league's proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement, but there are several concerns regarding language and other matters the players consider unresolved, numerous sources with direct knowledge of the situation said Friday.

Conversations with player representatives and NFLPA officials revealed no sense that a vote on ratification was imminent, instead indicating that more time will be necessary to reach an agreement on the deal approved by owners Thursday.

Some player reps have advised their teammates that it could take several days to reach a point where the NFLPA is comfortable agreeing to terms with the league and beginning the union recertification process. Of course, that could change if major gains are made in negotiations.

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Meanwhile, over 100 team executives and general managers gathered Friday in Atlanta, where they were briefed on the rules for the upcoming league year. Officials were advised that team facilities will not be open to players Saturday, as was part of the proposal made to players.

"We were told that the lockout was still in place; that's the way we handle it," said John Elway, the Denver Broncos' executive vice president of football operations. "We're just waiting."

Indeed, the language and league-year dates in the owners' proposal were "contingent upon ratification of the agreement by the players prior to these dates."

According to one player rep, the NFLPA sent an email saying the next plan was to talk Monday. However, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah denied that such an email was delivered.

"There is no timetable for any conference call," said Atallah, who explained the players are going over the documents and lawyers are discussing the remaining issues.

Confusion about a Monday conference call spread among players and player reps after they saw a report about an email being sent by the NFLPA. It reached the point where some reps -- including two to whom NFL Network spoke -- assumed it was true and that they just hadn't received the email themselves.

It turned out the email wasn't official and came just between players, not conveying any official communication from the NFLPA.

NFLPA president Kevin Mawae issued an official statement Friday morning: "Player leadership is discussing the most recent written proposal with the NFL, which includes a settlement agreement, deal terms and the right process for addressing recertification. There will not be any further NFLPA statements today out of respect for the Kraft family while they mourn the loss of Myra Kraft."

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith spent Friday morning in Newton, Mass., at Myra Kraft's funeral. The wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft passed away Wednesday at age 68 after a long battle with cancer.

The issue of how, and when, the NFLPA would reform as a union -- a necessary step before any player vote can take place -- remains paramount. There is a difference between the players and owners as to how that process would occur. NFLPA lawyers and brass believe there are "major problems with the process of reforming the union and settling the lawsuits," as spelled out in the proposal presented by the owners, according to one source.

Complicating matters is the fact some players have been referred to an illegitimate website that is posing as a vehicle to help players vote to reconstitute a union. The NFLPA sent a letter to all players and agents Friday advising them to ignore the site and that it isn't affiliated with the organization or the NFL.

There also remains a significant disconnect between the sides regarding how certain issues would be resolved that only can be formally drawn up once there is a CBA between the sides. These issues include drug-policy matters (such as HGH testing), issues of discipline for off-the-field problems and some matters related to work-place safety.

The major economic framework for a 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.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and league owners expressed hope Thursday night that their 31-0 vote -- the Oakland Raiders abstained -- would lead to a speedy resolution to the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987. They called it an equitable deal that improves player safety and allows the sport to prosper even more.

"It is time to get back to football," Goodell said.

But even when players decide they're OK with a final agreement, their approval process is more complicated than the owners' was. The 32 player reps will have to recommend accepting the settlement. Then the 10 named plaintiffs -- including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees -- in the players' lawsuit against the league must officially inform the court of their approval.

Eventually, all 1,900 players would take a majority vote to approve returning the NFLPA to union status. When talks broke down in March, allowing the old collective bargaining agreement to expire, the players dissolved the union, turning the NFLPA into a trade association. That's what allowed the players to sue the owners in federal court under antitrust law.

NFL Network reporter Albert Breer, senior writer Steve Wyche and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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