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Players vote to approve NFL owners' proposed labor deal

(Reuters) - NFL players have voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will expand the playoff field and allow owners the option to lengthen the regular season, the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: A worker walks on a stage in front of the NFL logo in New York's Times Square January 27, 2014. New Jersey's MetLife Stadium will host the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl February 2. As part of festivities, the NFL is sponsoring activities along 'Super Bowl Boulevard', located on Broadway between 34th and 47th streets in Manhattan. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY SPORT FOOTBALL)

The new 10-year labor deal extends through the 2030 season and offers increased compensation for every minimum-salary player, or about 60% of the NFL.

The players voted to approve ratification by a vote tally of 1,019 to 959, the league's players' association said on Twitter here.

The league estimated as much as an additional $100 million will go to players this season. Both active and retired players will benefit.

"We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement here.

Terms of the new CBA will increase the playoff field to 14 teams from 12 for the 2020 season and give owners the option to expand the regular season to 17 games from 16 as early as 2021.

Adding one regular season game for each of the NFL’s 32 teams had been one of the more divisive elements of the deal and a number of prominent players considered it a health risk.

“We understand and know that players have been split on this deal, including members of our EC,” the NFLPA Executive Committee said in a statement.

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“Going forward, it is our duty to lead, however we may feel as individuals, to bring our men together and to continue to represent the interests of our entire membership.”

Player reaction was mixed.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady Tweeted; “Well done, De,” offering his support for the agreement and the work of NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.

“Can’t believe we agreed to that lol,” Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron said on Twitter. “We can only play this game for so long and y’all didn’t want everything we could get out of it?”

League owners approved the deal in February so only the players’ approval remained to secure it.

Voting, which began with ballots sent to players on March 5, ended at 11:59 p.m ET Saturday (0359 GMT). The players’ association estimated 2,500 players were eligible to vote.

With the approval, teams can start the new league year on Wednesday with Monday the deadline for putting a franchise or transition tag on players.

The NFLPA executive committee had voted in February not to recommend the proposal to membership for a vote but the players’ association board of representatives later voted 17-14 to send the proposal to the full membership for a vote.

The deal will add two additional active spots to rosters, bringing them to a total of 55, and the number of padded practices at training camp will decrease from 28 to 16.

Changes to the drug policy also will be made including a reduction in penalties for players who test positive for THC (eliminating suspensions solely based on positive tests), an abbreviated testing window (from four months to two weeks at the start of training camp) and a significant increase in the threshold for a positive test.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Gene Cherry in Raleigh, editing by Ed Osmond