Players Vote to OK Deal to End NFL Lockout

WASHINGTON (AP) - The NFL Players Association executive board
and 32 team reps voted unanimously Monday 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
Monday morning on a final pact that is for 10 years, without an
opt-out clause, a person familiar with the deal told the AP on
condition of anonymity.
      Owners decided in 2008 to opt out of the league's old labor
contract, which expired March 11. 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 p.m. 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 10 of
the 32 teams on Wednesday, 10 more on Thursday, another 10 on
Friday, and the last two teams on Sunday.
      Both sides set up informational conference calls for Monday
afternoon to go over the details of the agreement. The NFLPA told
player agents they would be coached in particular on the guidelines
and schedule for signing free agents and rookies; the NFL alerted
general managers and coaches they would be briefed in separate

      (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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