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Mortensen says NFLPA vote could take place Friday

UPDATE 10:33PM ET - Chris Mortensen just stated on ESPN that De Smith and the NFLPA's lawyers are currently looking over the documents sent over by ownership and expect to be able to conduct a vote on approving the deal as soon as tomorrow. Mortensen says one of the potential hangups is the lack of an opt-out from the 10-year agreement perhaps seven or eight years into the deal, and that items like player discipline and drug testing cannot be negotiated until the NFLPA recertifies.

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Dawkins expects pay cut; Royal says he’s 100%

This is the closest we've come to talking about real football news in months now; S Brian Dawkins told Mike Klis today that he expects to end up with a restructured deal with the Broncos which will pay him less than the $6 million he's due in 2011. Dawkins even went so far as to say that he and his agent have expected such a scenario since he first signed his free-agent deal with Denver prior to the 2009 season.

Klis also spoke with WR Eddie Royal and RB Knowshon Moreno today; Royal says he's already fully recovered from the February operation on his hip. Meanwhile, Moreno is apparently down to 200 lbs, around 10 lbs less than his prior playing weight with Denver. Perhaps this weight loss could result in more of the explosiveness we've been waiting to see out of Knowshon since the Broncos selected him 12th overall in the 2009 Draft.

Ex-Broncos LB Nate Webster indicted on sex charges

Nate Webster, who played for the Broncos from 2006 to 2008 before retiring, has been indicted by a grand jury in Hamilton County, OH on charges of sexual battery, gross sexual imposition and five counts of unlawful sex with a minor. Webster allegedly had repeated nonconsensual sex with a 15-year-old girl in 2009 and threatened her with a gun to prevent her from telling her own family about the incidents. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters cited "overwhelming evidence of (Webster's) guilt" and says the ex-LB threatened to "kill (the girl) and kill her family."

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NFLPA okays settlement pending resolution of issues

UPDATE 6:50PM ET - More from Mark Maske...

The owners still could vote Thursday to approve deal even without a players' vote today, according to people familiar with deliberations. The deal is basically in place. It's the resolution of the lawsuit that remains unfinished, and it must be resolved to finish the CBA. NFL labor committee ended its meeting in Atlanta. Full ownership meeting scheduled to begin Thursday at 10 a.m.

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Revelation of NFLPA’s lockout insurance may have forced concessions from owners

Apparently De Smith isn't the thoughtless/reckless goon he was made out to be a month or two ago. As Jim Trotter writes for SI,

slightly more than a year ago he received approval from the executive committee to secure insurance that would pay each player roughly $200,000 if there were no football in 2011

Trotter goes on to say that "only a handful" of people outside of the NFLPA's executive committee knew about the lockout insurance, and when talks appeared at a standstill on Wednesday old friend Domonique Foxworth dropped the proverbial bomb on ownership. Mike Freeman openly wondered this morning what had taken place to spur so much progress on Thursday, and now we know. (Thanks, Chibronx)

Agreement on rookie wage scale and 2011 salary cap reportedly reached

Adam Schefter is reporting that the players and owners have agreed upon a new rookie wage scale and are one step closer to reaching a new CBA. According to John Clayton, all first-round picks would receive four-year rookie contracts with fifth-year options which teams would be able to exercise following the players' third and fourth seasons.

Although the two sides were not previously scheduled to meet tomorrow, they are now expected to continue their talks late into the night and reconvene tomorrow. The issues yet to be resolved include workers' comp, settlement of the TV damages suit and the Brady suit, and the extra rights of first refusal owners are seeking to help them retain free agents this year. According to ESPN's report, the owners are (of course) asking that the players recertify their union and omit judicial oversight from future labor disputes.

UPDATE 9:50PM ET - Clayton is now reporting that the two sides have agreed to set the 2011 salary cap at $120 million with a salary floor close to 100 percent of that number, while Sal Paolantonio says an agreement is close at hand

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Thomas denies allegations he received improper benefits at GT

Second-year Denver WR Demaryius Thomas, who is rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon, has denied an allegation that he received $312 worth of clothing from a sports agency employee in 2009 while a member of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. GT vacated its 2009 ACC football championship game victory, was fined $100K and its football and men's hoops programs were placed on probation until July of 2015 for failing to cooperate with the NCAA in its investigation of the school. Thomas, a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2010, disputed the validity of the report in a text message to the DP. The NCAA said that GT should have declared (Thomas) ineligible for its final three games in 2009, including its ACC title game victory over Clemson and Orange Bowl loss to Iowa.

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Eighth Circuit rules that lockout is legal

UPDATE 12:37PM ET - The NFL and NFLPA have issued a joint statement regarding the Eighth Circuit's decision:

While we respect the court's decision, today's ruling does not change our mutual recognition that this matter must be resolved through negotiation. We are committed to our current discussions and reaching a fair agreement that will benefit all parties for years to come and allow for a full 2011 season.

Original Entry 11:37AM ET - The Eighth Circuit of Appeals has overturned Judge Susan Nelson's earlier injunction which had temporarily lifted the NFL lockout. As with the earlier temporary stay of Judge Nelson's injunction, Judge Kermit Bye stands alone as the opposing voice in the decision while his two colleagues ruled that the NFL's work stoppage had arisen out of a labor dispute and thus was protected by the Norris-LaGuardia Act.

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Labor talks reportedly take turn for worse

According to Chris Mortensen and Mike Freeman, the CBA talks have regressed as the owners have apparently gone back to "playing games" by reneging on the reported agreement to give the players a flat 48% of all revenue. Reportedly, the owners have gone back to requesting an expense credit off the top amounting to between $400 million and $500 million which would knock the players' cut down to around 45%. Meanwhile, Albert Breer is tweeting that the negotiations are continuing at this hour in Minneapolis:

I've heard the cries for weeks now -- "Why aren't they locked in a building, 'round the clock?" Looks like people are getting their wish...Big shots arrived at around 9 am CT. All hell broke loose in the 4 o'clock hour with doom and gloom. Almost 9 pm now. They're still meeting...We're past 10 CT ... And they're still meeting. Entering Hour No. 14 of this day's negotiations.

Mike Florio's reaction is that it's about time the two sides burn the midnight oil in pursuit of an agreement, and that perhaps it's time for Judge Doty and the Eighth Circuit judges to issue their rulings and push things along. Finally, Judy Battista is hearing that the two sides are still close enough that a deal could be reached within 72 hours, although a settlement is more likely to stretch another week and a half, if not more.

Smith, Goodell met today sans players, owners

The NFL's labor talks recommenced today in Minnesota and are scheduled to last four days, in what would be the longest negotiating session to date. These meetings are reportedly being conducted solely by Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith and their respective legal teams, without the presence of players and owners. The two sides are reportedly focusing now on the potential rookie wage scale and how to ensure that the money previously spent on draft choices would be reallocated to the benefit of veteran players. Meanwhile, Chris Mortensen is reporting that the players and owners involved in the previous talks may rejoin these sessions later in the week, and that player reps would participate in a conference call today to be updated on the negotiations.