Stalemated players, owners lateral free agency to judge Doty's plea to agree fails one final time

November 19, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

NFL players and owners both appear ready to let federal court judge David Doty decide the future of free agency in pro football.

The judge, who presided over the Freeman McNeil case in Minnesota, has urged the two sides to settle their differences on their own for the last three years. He made the last plea in his chambers after a hearing last Thursday.

But when the two sides met Tuesday in New York, they remained far apart and didn't come close to making a deal that would have taken the matter out of court.

Jim Quinn, the attorney for the players, said no progress was made and the issue will now be decided by Doty.

"I think at this point, he'll have to rule and let the chips fall where they may," Quinn said.

A league spokesman declined comment on the talks.

Doty is expected to rule either just before or after Thanksgiving.

Quinn also contradicted a published report that Doty told the lawyers that both sides would be unhappy with the result if he were forced to make a ruling. Quinn said the judge said only one side would be unhappy.

"Sometimes, people hear what they want to hear," Quinn said.

The players are asking him to free all the players who've been in the league four years or longer. The owners want him to let them impose a new plan to replace Plan B, which was ruled illegal by a federal court jury in September.

The players are confident Doty will rule in their favor because he freed four free agents who were holding out, including tight end Keith Jackson, after Plan B was ruled illegal. If Doty does rule in the players' favor, the owners will appeal.

The two sides are so far apart they can't even agree on what the average length of a player's career is. The players say it's four years and the owners say it's eight years. What makes that a major point is the players' contention that they should get free agency after four years because they say that's the average length of a player's career.

The owners' proposal for a salary cap is another major sticking point. The players are opposed to that idea.

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