Brady, Manning and Brees say it's 'time'

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks downfield at the New York Jets in the fourth...

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks downfield at the New York Jets in the fourth quarter during their AFC Divisional NFL playoff football game in Foxborough, January 16, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 9:37 PM ET

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are ready to concentrate on playing football, and they believe the players have an offer on the table that can end the NFL lockout.

In a statement released Wednesday, the three quarterbacks said they "believe the overall proposal made by the players is fair for both sides and it is time to get this deal done."

They added: "This is the time of year we as players turn our attention to the game on the field. We hope the owners feel the same way."

The statement was released to the Associated Press but also made public. The NFL responded with words of its own, released via Twitter.

"We share the view that now is the time to reach an agreement so we can all get back to football and a full 2011 season," the NFL said. "We are working hard with the players' negotiating team every day to complete an agreement as soon as possible."

Fans probably wish the sides would stick to face-to-face discussions, which also happened Wednesday. Owners and players met again for talks that could go a long way in determining when and how the season will begin.

According to a report published Monday, the NFL lockout could be in its final weeks.

The report on ESPN.com said there could be a collective bargaining agreement in place between the NFL and its players in time for the deal to be ratified during league meetings on July 21.

Citing people familiar with the ongoing negotiations, the report said a "handshake deal" could be in place within 7-10 days and would be up for ratification by both sides.

The lockout began on March 12 after the NFL and players' union failed to reach an agreement on how to split about $9 billion in revenue, among other sticking points.

The players decertified their union and -- headlined by Brady, Manning and Brees -- filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league.

In the four months since, the sides have battled each other in courts and during negotiating sessions that have become increasingly secretive.

In a victory for the owners, an appeals court ruled last week to keep the lockout in place, vacating a lower court's decision. But it also ruled that the antitrust lawsuit filed by the players could move forward.

The ESPN report said both sides "appear comfortable" with a deal that would split all revenue so that the players would receive about 48 percent of the money at first and not less than around 46.5 percent during a new CBA that would last for 7-10 years.

Almost all preseason games would be played if a deal is reached by July 21, according to the report.

The ESPN story also detailed a document called "The Transition Rules" -- basically, a blueprint that would guide the league through the start of a new season.

Among the issues that need to be worked out are deadlines on when teams can sign rookies and free agents.

Also, according to the report, the biggest speed bump in the way of a new agreement involves the debate over a rookie wage scale. The sides have agreed on a deal that would cut compensation in half, although the players have balked at one that doesn't allow rookie classes to become free agents after four years.

The story also said the sides are in disagreement over a proposal by owners that allows them to match any contract offer during the 2011 transition period to keep their free agents. It was rejected by the players, ESPN reported.


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