Practice squad approved judge must rule on plan


HERNDON, Va. -- If a federal judge approves the plan today, the National Football League teams would be able to have three- to five-man practice squads for the rest of the season.

The owners voted, 23-2-3, yesterday at a meeting in New York to approve a deal that commissioner Paul Tagliabue made with Joseph "Chip" Yablonski, the lawyer suing the league over the 1989 $1,000-a-week developmental squad players.

A hearing was then scheduled for today in Washington before federal judge Royce C. Lamberth, who is hearing the case.

Even if Lamberth approves it today, Washington Redskins general manager Charley Casserly said the squads won't be implemented until next week.

According to the agreement, teams can sign between three and five players at a minimum of $3,000 a game. The practice-squad players can't make a combined total of more than $325,000.

But, since the players can't be signed until next week, Casserly said the Redskins may sign only two practice players because those put on the injured-reserve squad after the final 47-man roster was set are eligible to practice next week.

If an IR player practices, he would count against the limit of five practice players.

The 23-2-3 vote was similar to the 24-4 vote the owners gave the measure last week, but the owners had to wait a week to approve it because it wasn't unanimous. After a week, the measure needed 21 votes for passage.

Tagliabue could have held an electronic vote, but decided to call the meeting, which lasted three hours, because he wanted all the teams to have a chance to speak on the issue.

The Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers voted no. They didn't like the cost of the plan and the fact that Yablonski got $150,000 in legal fees in the deal and, yet, still will be allowed to press his suit for the 1989 players.

Yablonski and Doug Allen, assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association, said they didn't want to comment until the court gives the matter its approval today.

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