“It’s been a long time coming,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Football is back, and that’s the great news for everybody.”
2-month lockout will end officially if the labor agreement is ratified by a majority of the close to 2,000 NFL players, which is considered a virtual certainty.
“Do we see any problems on the horizon for [approval by] the group of players?” said DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association. “No. . . . I don’t believe that there’s going to be a problem with the unity of the players getting together. . . . Our job is to get it done.”
Players are to be allowed into teams’ training facilities at 10 a.m. Tuesday to undergo physicals and participate in voluntary workouts. Teams can make trades Tuesday and sign their rookies to contracts contingent on the players’ ratification. Teams can negotiate with free agents Tuesday but can’t sign those players until 6 p.m. Friday.
Hundreds of players are eligible for free agency after trades and free agent signings were on hold during the lockout, which began March 12. So there will be a mad scramble for teams to assemble rosters and players to find jobs.
“The best word for it is chaos,” said fullback Tony Richardson, a member of the players’ executive committee. “I’ll be a free agent. It’s going to be interesting.”
Ten NFL teams are scheduled to open their training camps Wednesday. Another 10, including the Washington Redskins, are to open camps Thursday, then 10 more Friday and the remaining two Sunday. The preseason is to begin Aug. 11; the regular season is scheduled to begin Sept. 8.
Goodell and Smith stood side by side at Monday’s announcement and shook hands at one point. Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday hugged Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, after praising Kraft, whose wife Myra died last week after a battle with cancer. Kraft’s eyes became teary as Saturday spoke.
Goodell said both sides have to make sure fans understand that “we are sorry for the frustration that we put them through over the last six months,” and Kraft issued a public apology to the sport’s followers.
Kraft also said: “I hope we gave a little lesson to the people in Washington because the debt crisis is a lot easier to fix than this deal was.”
The players’ executive committee and the player representatives from the 32 teams recommended Monday that the players settle their antitrust lawsuit against the owners filed in March. They also recommended that the players re-form their union, which they dissolved the day before the lockout began, to finish the labor agreement, because issues such as drug-testing matters must be collectively bargained by a union.