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AP: NFL players on board to recertify union

- Associated Press - Saturday, July 30, 2011

NFL players are on board to recertify the union, meaning talks can reopen with the league to complete the labor agreement, a person familiar with the number of votes cast told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the union has not made an announcement. The person added talks with the NFL could restart even though players from all NFL teams have not had a chance to vote yet. The union, however, had enough votes to recertify as of Saturday morning.

Players from at least 11 teams have already voted overwhelmingly in favor of recertification the past few days as they reported for training camp.

Reconstituting the union was a condition to concluding the collective bargaining agreement that was reached last week. The union would be required to negotiate with the NFL several outstanding items, such as drug testing, player discipline, disability and pension programs.

The pact requires those issues be resolved and a full CBA done by Aug. 4, a deadline both sides are confident will be reached.

"Everybody signed the ballot in favor of recertification," Buffalo Bills safety and player representative George Wilson said in announcing his team's vote Saturday. Wilson said the union hopes to have all team votes in by the end of the day and have the union recertified before the weekend ends.

Though the lockout has been lifted and teams have been in the process of opening camps and signing both rookies and veteran free agents, the labor deal is still not completed.

Once completed, veteran free agents who have signed new contracts starting Friday night will be allowed to practice with their teams. Those players are currently allowed to attend team meetings, work out individually and watch — but not participate — in practice.

"It's frustrating," Buffalo Bills receiver/quarterback Brad Smith said after watching the team's first walk-through of training camp in suburban Rochester on Saturday. "It's good. I can sit here and watch the guys go through the plays and learn the system. It hurts a little bit. But it's a positive opportunity."

The former New York Jets multipurpose offensive star signed a four-year contract with the Bills on Friday, a day after agreeing to the deal.

Aside from the Bills, players from the Patriots, Chiefs, Broncos, Bengals, Cowboys, Jaguars, Browns, Saints and Steelers have all voted in favor of recertification. Titans, Redskins and Dolphins players were set to vote later Saturday.

The Vikings aren't scheduled to report to camp until Sunday, and it's unclear when or if they have already voted.

Union officials did not immediately return messages left with them seeking clarification as to how many teams have voted to recertify, and when the union could potentially recertify.

"It was an easy sell," Denver safety and player representative Brian Dawkins told the AP regarding the Broncos' vote.

Dawkins explained that the union sends advocates to each team to explain recertification. An advocate was not required to meet with the Broncos because Dawkins is a member of the union's executive committee.

Cautioning that the deal is not yet done, Dawkins is confident the final issues will be settled.

"De and those guys will continue to hash those things out," he said, referring to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. "We have nothing but 100 percent trust in De. He knows what we want. He knows what obviously we need."

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AP Sports Writers Teresa M. Walker, in Nashville, Tenn., and Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colo., contributed to this story.

 

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