WASHINGTON (ESPN.com) -- Now it can be said with certainty: Get ready for some football!
NFL players voted to OK a final deal Monday, days after the owners approved a tentative agreement, and the sides finally managed to put an end to the 4½-month lockout, the longest work stoppage in league history.
"This is a long time coming, and football's back," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "and that's the great news for everybody."
At a joint appearance outside the NFL Players Association headquarters, Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith shook hands, surrounded by some of the owners and players who were involved in the talks. They spoke shortly after the NFLPA executive board and 32 team reps voted unanimously to approve the terms of a 10-year deal.
"We didn't get everything that either side wanted ... but we did arrive at a deal that we think is fair and balanced," Smith said.
Owners can point to victories, such as gaining a higher percentage of the more than $9 billion in annual league revenues, one of the key issues throughout. Players persuaded teams to commit to spending nearly all of their salary cap space in cash and won changes to offseason and in-season practice rules that should make the game safer.
The labor dispute comes to a close after claiming one exhibition: the Hall of Fame game between the Bears and Rams, scheduled for Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio. Otherwise, the entire preseason and regular-season schedules remain intact. Club facilities will open to players starting at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, when 2011 draft picks and rookie free agents can be signed.
Also at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, teams can start making trades and begin conversations with veteran free agents from all teams. However, no player can officially sign until Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Teams will not have a window to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents.
However, when veteran free agents do sign with teams, they will not be able to participate in any practice, weight training or workouts until the beginning of the league year, slated to be Aug. 4. They will be required to attend classroom sessions and non-physical activity once the contracts are signed.
Rookies, both drafted and undrafted, will be allowed to fully participate and their contracts will be fully covered, regardless of whether the agreement is ratified.
Then, beginning Wednesday, the first group of teams will report for training camps, 15 days before each club's first preseason game.
The first 10 teams are: Seattle, San Diego, Arizona, Oakland, Denver, Dallas, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New England.
On Thursday, 10 more teams will report: Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Miami, Atlanta, San Francisco, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Washington, Cincinnati, Detroit.
And Friday, 10 additional teams will report: Buffalo, Chicago, Green Bay, Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Minnesota, Tennessee, NY Giants, Carolina.
The New York Jets and Houston Texans will be the last two teams to report, on Sunday.