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Players' union proposes rookie wage scale in labor talks with NFL

NEW YORK -- A rookie wage scale is among the issues the NFL and the players' union are expected to discuss during labor negotiations this week.

The NFL Players Association has presented a proposal that would include redirecting money paid to rookies into veterans' contracts instead. The union's plan would have a scale or cap for how much rookies would be paid, and the 32 teams would use the money saved from those contracts on established players. As much as $200 million could wind up in veterans' pockets.

That proposal was made to the league before Christmas, and includes a three-year maximum on rookie deals.

"We called it the proven performance plan," NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said Monday.

The next negotiations are set for Tuesday. Neither side has said when a rookie wage scale might be implemented.

Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who signed a contract extension through 2011 in August 2008 going into his third NFL season, was asked about the rookie scale.

"The owners started out a long time ago giving the rookies all this money," he said. "If they want to open the books up and show how much money they're really making, then we'll just go back to the way things are and we're happy with it."

Detroit signed quarterback Matthew Stafford, the top pick in last April's draft, to a six-year contract worth $78 million overall, with $41.7 million in guarantees. Offensive tackle Jason Smith, the second overall pick, got $62 million with incentives, $33 million in guaranteed money.

The NFL declined to comment on the union's proposal.

The contract between the NFL and its players expires after the 2010 season. That season will not have a salary cap under the current agreement. The NFL opted out of the collective bargaining agreement in 2008.

"It looks very bleak to get a CBA done before March of this year or the beginning of the new NFL season," NFLPA president Kevin Mawae said. "We're going to continue to try.

"Until we come to some terms of what's really important and what are the big issues in this deal it's going to be tough to get something done."

The contract was negotiated in 2006 by then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw, the union leader who died in 2008.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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