OWINGS MILLS – Reacting angrily to owners’ ratification of a proposed collective bargaining agreement, NFL players characterized the move as a power play that won’t break their resolve.
The decertified NFL Players Association has yet to vote on whether they’ll approve the labor deal and remain locked out while the league has scheduled training camp to begin as soon as next Wednesday.
Saying they refuse to be bullied into a hasty decision, no vote has been scheduled or recertification of the union.
"They want to make a situation where they feel like they’re making us get it done," Baltimore Ravens safety Haruki Nakamura said in a telephone interview "They act like we need to get it done right now at this time. Our player reps are going to go through it with a fine-tooth comb. We need to cross every ‘I’ and dot every ‘T.’ We want to make sure it’s as good a deal for us as possible.
"This is kind of like the power move they made at the beginning of the negotiations. They’re trying to do it without saying it’s a power move, but it is. We don’t want to let a pressure situation force us to overlook something. If you’re a good businessman, you would never sign a deal you don’t truly understand."
Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth has been involved in every aspect of this negotiation as a member of the NFLPA executive committee.
He expressed frustration in a message to Ravens fullback Le’Ron McClain via his Twitter account.
"Man, they don’t make anything easy," Foxworth wrote.
"I feel like I’m in the dark," McClain replied.
And Ravens free agent cornerback Fabian Washington said the players need to review all of the documents.
"No way, you can’t force us to sign a bad deal and shove it down our throats," Washington said in a telephone interview. "I feel like our guys, the NFLPA reps, will judge if it’s a good deal or a bad deal. We want to make sure everything is right with no hidden loopholes."
Ravens team president Dick Cass had a much different take on the situation after the owners voted 31-0 win in favor of the deal at the league meetings in Atlanta. The Ravens were represented by Cass and owner Steve Bisciotti.
"I think this is a great day for fans," Cass said in a statement. "One of the provisions of the agreement that I think is really good is that it’s a 10-year agreement. So, we’ve got labor peace for 10 years. We’ve managed to get a new CBA without losing any games and for the most part maintaining our schedule.
"Yes, the offseason has been modified, but the real season begins with training camp and hopefully, subject to the ratification, we will begin training camp next Wednesday, which is when we were actually scheduled to begin it."
The league announced that the full free agency signing period would start Wednesday assuming the players’ union recertifies and signs off on the deal. Meanwhile, undrafted rookies, draft picks and teams’ own unrestricted free agents could potentially be signed during an exclusive negotiating window over the weekend.
"We’re ready for the season to begin and we’ve been preparing for this for many months," Cass said. "Our coaches are ready, our scouts are ready. It’s going to be a lot of activity at the facility in the next week or so. The good news is we have approved an agreement that is fair to our fans, fair to our players and fair to the teams. This gives us the basis to move forward and preserve competitive balance in the league and make the league stronger and better."
Although the players don’t want to be rushed into a new deal, that doesn’t mean the labor contract doesn’t have some terms that are regarded as favorable in terms of salaries, benefits and player safety issues.
"Foxworth said the deal is pretty good for both sides," Nakamura said. "We just want to make sure everything is taken care of. We’ll figure it out."
In a television interview, Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said the players won’t be shoved into a corner.
"We’re not going to be put under the fire to try to make a decision," Mason said. "We’re going to look at what the owners have signed off on and we’re going to take this very seriously. We’re not up against any time constraint. We’re going to take this very delicately."
Business will be conducted in a frenetic fashion as NFL teams have expanded training camp rosters to 90 players.
They have to cram into less than a week transactions that usually take several months to complete, including signing veteran players, draft picks and undrafted rookies.
"Hey, it’s going to come in a hurry," said Washington, who’s not expected to return to Baltimore. "I don’t know how you can go into camp on Wednesday with 32 teams having to get 90 players on a roster. And you can’t just sign with any team. You have to make a decision as fast as possible. It’s going to be like water rolling downhill. It’s going to be crazy."
Reached in Mississippi where he’s training for the NFL season, Ravens fifth-round rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee is guardedly optimistic that he’ll be able to meet his teammates and coaches for the first time.
"I’m pretty excited, I’m ready for the football season to start," McPhee said. "I want to meet everyone and get to work. I’m in pretty good shape. I can’t control what’s going on with the business stuff. I just leave it in the union and God’s hands."
NOTES: The Ravens are projected to be $5.33 million under a $120 million salary cap, a figure that doesn’t include roughly $10 million for their restricted free agents or the $2.5 million they could save by cutting running back Willis McGahee. … The New York Jets hired former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore as a consultant, and the New York Post reported that the Ravens were interested in the veteran assistant to bolster their 22nd-ranked offense. Moore had no interest in that topic, though, telling the Post: "I don’t want to talk about any of that stuff."