WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — The NFL Players Association executive board and 32 team reps voted unanimously today to approve the terms of a deal with owners to the end the 4½-month lockout.
Owners overwhelmingly approved a proposal last week, but some unresolved issues still needed to be reviewed to satisfy players; the owners do not need to vote again.
The sides worked through the weekend and wrapped up the details this morning on a final pact that is for 10 years, without an opt-out clause, a person familiar with the deal revealed on condition of anonymity.
Fans in Philadelphia are decidedly upbeat about the news.
“Me being a huge sports fan, it’s kind of concerning when there’s no NFL season, but I’m happy that the players and the owners got to an agreement,” Neil (no last name given), who lives in Manayunk, told KYW Newsradio on Independence Mall this afternoon.
Rob Lark, of Wilmington, says the money that the two sides argued about shocked him.
“I couldn’t believe the players were that money-hungry,” he says. “I think they’re a little overpaid as it is. What they do is important to society and American culture and everything, but that many millions of dollars a year is a little much. But I am happy to see that they will be playing again,” he added, “and I’m looking forward to going to games and watching them every Sunday.”
Gerald, who lives in Israel with his wife and four children, watches the Eagles, and sometimes the Buffalo Bills, every Sunday via the Internet or satellite. He says he was initially concerned about what the lockout was going to do to his recreation calendar.
“I was worried about my Sunday nights and what I’d be able to do (besides watching football) — fill the time with family and things like that,” he told KYW Newsradio today.
But Gerald says it’s a good thing. He says he doubted from the start that the season would be scratched.
“Based on what the experts were saying, it wasn’t going to be a real lockout,” he notes. “There was very little chance the season would get canceled. So I think it was just a fancy way of taking off the summer, missing the summer workouts, and it’s clear everybody is getting back to business.”
He says the real problem is going to be the NBA.
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NFL owners decided in 2008 to opt out of the league’s old labor contract, which expired March 11th. That’s when the owners locked out the players, creating the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.
NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith stepped outside of the group’s headquarters in Washington at about 2 PM today to announce that players approved the pact.
“I know it has been a very long process since the day we stood here that night in March,” Smith said. “But our guys stood together when nobody thought we would. And football is back because of it.”
As he spoke, Smith was flanked by NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Colts center Jeff Saturday, and Ravens defensive back Domonique Foxworth, key members of the players’ negotiating team. Brees is one of 10 plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit that players filed against the league.
Moments later, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walked into the building, joined by owners Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots, John Mara of the New York Giants, and Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers.
“I believe it’s important that we talk about the future of football as a partnership,” Smith said.
A tentative timeline would allow NFL clubs to start signing 2011 draft picks and rookie free agents on Tuesday. Conversations with veteran free agents also could start Tuesday, and their signings could begin Friday.
Under the proposed schedule, training camps would open for ten of the 32 teams on Wednesday, ten more on Thursday, another ten on Friday, and the last two teams on Sunday.
Reported by Kim Glovas, KYW Newsradio 1060