Players still considering labor deal; Vikings not ruling out Mankato
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It appears NFL player representatives will take at least another day or two to analyze the labor deal owners approved on Thursday. And that doesn't bode well for the Minnesota Vikings' chances of holding training camp in Mankato, although the team remains hopeful.
In an e-mail to players obtained by ESPN on Friday afternoon, NFL Players Association representatives said they continue to review owners' proposal and recommend "for everyone to stay put and keep doing what you are doing where you are doing it. We will meet again Monday to discuss our options and the direction we want to go."
The New York Times quickly reported neither NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith nor spokesman George Atallah knew about the letter, internal meetings were expected to continue into the weekend and ESPN cited a "high-ranking NFLPA source" as saying the former union's executive board planned to communicate with player reps on Friday night or Saturday.
A source "with direct knowledge of the dynamics" told ProFootballTalk.com that a vote will happen once deal points and settlement language are finalized.
Still, barring a breakthrough that allows players to vote on the deal on Saturday or Sunday, the timeline released by the NFL seems destined to be pushed back at least four days -- cutting things close on whether the Vikings can report to training camp as scheduled on July 31.
"We're still optimistic," Jeff Anderson, the Vikings' assistant director of public affairs, said in a text message. "No decision will be made in the next few days, but we're making every effort to be there."
It has long been assumed that, unless camp can be held in full, the Vikings would move it from Minnesota State University, Mankato to their Winter Park headquarters in Eden Prairie. The team has no flexibility to push back the dates because of the university's academic calendar, and although Monday's deadline for making a decision was delayed indefinitely, it's looking more and more likely camp may not start on time.
There also are significant questions about whether players will approve the deal by Monday, given the volume of issues that have been raised. They could decide instead that more negotiations are needed, pushing back the start of camps even further and perhaps threatening the first week of preseason games Aug. 11 to 15.
NFL executives gathered in Atlanta for a seminar on rules of the new labor proposal reportedly were told on Friday morning the scheduled workout and negotiation period had been pushed back from Saturday to at least Sunday. Each day that passes then would seem to delay the entire timeline, with five days needed from ratification to the start of the new league year.
If the spacing of the original timeline remains the same and players ratify the labor deal on Monday, players would be permitted to return to team facilities on Wednesday. Contract negotiations also could begin then, but free agency wouldn't begin until July 31, the same day camps could open around the league.
The Vikings were making contingency plans this week to bring players to Winter Park as soon as this week and launch camp as scheduled, but those are on hold for now.