Relief turns to more frustration for players as lockout continues
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MINNEAPOLIS -- For all of the hand-wringing and accusations that soon followed on Thursday night, several NFL players said on Friday their initial reaction to owners' near-unanimous approval of a labor proposal ranged from excitement to relief.
"I was one of those people that when the owners voted, I was in my house throwing my hands up like, 'Yes!'" said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who will become a free agent whenever the more than four-month-old lockout ends.
"But it kept getting prolonged and the (players) never came out and said anything so I was like, 'Maybe they don't have an agreement.' That's what ended up happening, so I was kind of disappointed."
Player representatives did not vote on the deal in a conference call on Thursday night, citing several details -- most notable, a supplemental revenue-sharing agreement -- they hadn't been a part of negotiating. Several players took to Twitter and various media outlets to call the league's self-congratulatory media conference a power play.
"There's just so many media outlets and rumors and Twitter," Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko said. "That's why I don't get on that crap. You don't know what to believe anymore."
Many owners and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith traveled to attend the funeral of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's wife, Myra, on Friday as player reps continued to assess their options.
"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," Kevin Mawae, the NFLPA president, said in a statement.
"There will not be any further NFLPA statements (on Friday) out of respect for the Kraft family while they mourn the loss of Myra Kraft."
Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has been in direct contact with Smith, said players remain unified.
"We've got to," said Fitzgerald, who organizes and bankrolls the workouts on the "U" campus that Jackson, Palko and dozens of others have been attending in recent weeks.
"What choice do we have? I heard one of the guys from the PA say, 'The NFL is a big machine. They can get the media machine spinning and turn public opinion and what you hear is not always factual.' We've got to wait for the real facts to come out."
NFL Network reported the timeline for restarting league operations already has been pushed back another day, with facilities to open no sooner than Sunday.
"We said out there at the (post-workout) breakdown that, 'Hey, if things are not resolved, then we come back on Monday as a normal work week," Fitzgerald said. "Let's get back on the field.' You see, we're in shape. The only thing we don't have is pads. That's all."
For young players, each passing day without an agreement increases the possibility of lost time in training camp that could negatively impact their chances of securing the roles they want.
"I'd rather someone call me and tell me that lockout is done, because it's kind of getting old," Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder said. "... It's crazy. It's definitely a rollercoaster. Hopefully, it ends. As a rookie quarterback, I'm ready to go and hoping that we start on time."
The Vikings are scheduled to report to training camp on July 31, with the first practice scheduled for Aug. 1. If the lockout isn't resolved by early next week, those dates probably would be pushed back, too.
"I've been following just as much as everybody else on ESPN and stuff like that," Vikings tackle Phil Loadholt said. "So, I'm just hoping it gets done real soon. I'm ready to get back to work."
That said, players were unanimous that they want the best deal possible, given that, for many of them, a 10-year pact would take them through the rest of their careers.
"I can wait as long as possible," Ponder said. "Obviously, I want to get on the field, but I know the importance of getting a deal that's going to last 10 years exactly how we want it, and so if it takes another month or so or we lose some games, so be it. We definitely want the best deal we can get."