NFL rejects new squad plan--this time


HERNDON, Va. -- After failing to get its proposed new practice squad passed by a unanimous vote yesterday, the National Football League will try again Tuesday, when it needs only 21 votes to pass the measure.

On Tuesday, the league announced its tentative agreement with lawyers for a group of players who filed a suit challenging the 1989 developmental squad.

In the new plan, each team can sign from three to five practice players. Their combined salaries must total at least $225,000, but not more than $325,000 -- an average of about $65,000 a player.

Last year, each team could have six players on a developmental squad, and they each could be paid $1,000 per game.

After attorney Joseph A. Yablonski filed the players' suit against last year's plan, the squad was abolished, but many coaches complained it would be difficult to practice all season without extra players.

By league rules, the teams must be given seven days' notice of a meeting. The only way that rule can be suspended is if a measure gets unanimous support.

The proposal failed to get unanimous support yesterday, although the league declined to announce the vote. A source said the Cincinnati Bengals were one team that opposed it.

Critics of the new plan said it is a victory for the players, who earlier turned down an offer of $2,000-a-game. Also, the players on last year's developmental squad can continue to press their lawsuit.

Now the teams will have to wait for Tuesday's vote before they can begin to sign players. A league spokesman said the league has not decided whether to call for a meeting in New York or to hold the vote by electronic ballot.

That probably means that if NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue thinks he has the 21 votes, he will conduct an electronic ballot; if he thinks a few arms need twisting, he will call for a meeting.

Washington federal judge Royce C. Lamberth, who is hearing the players' case, also must approve the plan before it can take effect.

The Washington Redskins are strong supporters of the new plan, and general manager Charley Casserly already has been telling players that he is interested in signing them.

"It's a real positive move," Casserly said.

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