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07-29-2011, 02:47 AM
Steelers optimistic labor deal will be official
Friday, July 29, 2011
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 49000.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_749000.html)

For the most part, the Steelers appeared anxious to return to work during the opening day of training camp at St. Vincent College after a sometimes tumultuous lockout threatened a work stoppage in the NFL for the first time since 1987.

However, their excitement was tempered some by the lingering possibility of further labor unrest albeit it slim.

Charlie Batch, who represented Steelers' players during tense negotiations that yielded a 10-year collective bargaining agreement earlier this week, said the preseason and regular season remain in jeopardy if the players recertify the union, then reject the labor deal.

"Once the player representatives voted to recommend it to the players, the players all listened to the agreement," Batch said. "If they like it, they will sign their cards to become a union again. If they don't like it, we don't know what's on the other side."

It appears most of the Steelers are satisfied with a new labor deal, which representatives of the NFL Players Association ratified earlier this week.

"I don't see anything I don't like about the collective bargaining agreement," said third-year receiver Mike Wallace. "I haven't read the entire agreement, but I don't think the (team representatives) would have signed a deal they didn't think was good for the players."

"We wanted a fair deal for us, but we had to wait for that to happen," said nose tackle Casey Hampton. "It was kind of surprising because we didn't expect to get it done as quickly as we did, mostly because of what we had been hearing."

Batch said the collective bargaining agreement can't fully be executed until the union recertification. The Steelers were among 11 teams expected to vote on a settlement agreement Thursday. At least 10 teams voted Wednesday, while 10 are scheduled to vote today and two others casting ballots Sunday.

"After we become a union, that's when you talk about negotiations and put the full collective bargaining agreement together," Batch said. "We won't know until all the 1,900 union cards are counted."

Batch said the votes are there to both recertify the union and accept the 10-year labor deal.

"Everybody wants to get back to playing football," said Batch, a 14-year veteran. "They are excited just as they were last Thursday when the owners voted for the CBA, but everything wasn't 100 percent. Once everything got settled on Monday, that's when everyone got excited again.

"I don't know if our vote is going to ultimately affect what might happen. Either way, we would have three or four practices in before a decision is made."

Batch and defensive back Ryan Clark agreed there are some unresolved issues despite the CBA agreement, particularly disagreements involving disciplinary action. The Steelers were among those hit hard by fines in 2010, including a league-high four fines for Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison.

"We knew we weren't going to get everything we wanted," Clark said. "There was some give and take. I don't think (commissioner) Roger (Goodell) cares about what we say. He isn't hired by us. He doesn't work for us, and he doesn't work with us. We can't give him opportunities to discipline us."

While the NFLPA remains at odds with the commissioner over disciplinary action, its members embraced fewer preseason practices. It was considered a major victory for the union, which also pushed back against an 18-game regular season schedule.

"The thing I really like is no more two-a-days," Wallace said. "I think it's going to save a lot of players. "It'll help us make a longer run in our careers."

Batch said while the players may have conceded in their revenue demands a 53 to 47 split they weren't in the mood to compromise on workers' compensation.

"I think what (owners) tried to pull with workers' compensation at the last minute was something we couldn't give in as players," Batch said. "It's not what you would ask the average working person to do.

"Ultimately, when you look at the revenue split and how things will go in the long haul for a 10-year period, it works best for everybody."

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