Football is back.
The 32 player representatives voted unanimously Monday afternoon to approve the deal agreed to by both sides hours earlier. The vote now goes as a recommendation to the 10 plaintiffs in Brady antitrust lawsuit, who have agreed to sign off on the settlement.
A joint press conference with NFL PLayers Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took place this afternoon.
Flanked by the 13-man executive committee outside the NFLPA headquarters, Smith announced the players' vote that essentially put an end to the four-and-a half-month lockout.
"To our fans, I know that you love this game as much as I do. And I know it has been a very long process, since the day that we stood here that night in March. But our guys stood together when nobody though we would and football is back because of it," Smith said.
Owners Robert Kraft, Jerry Richardson, John Mara and Pat Bowlen were seen entering the building shortly after Smith's statement. Smith and Goodell reportedly signed the deal prior to the joint press conference.
Legal teams for NFL owners and players negotiated through the weekend and deep into Monday morning, wrapping up at 3 a.m. with an agreement on basic terms.
The 32 team player reps began a conference call at 11 a.m. ET to go over a summary of the deal, with some of the key points of contention pulled out ad explained. Sources say there is no opt-out in the deal, so the current agreement will last for 10 years without the ability to renegotiate.
Meanwhile, the sides have agreed to a timeline that would allow some transactions and league business to begin Tuesday, sources with direct knowledge of the situation told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora.
The process to get to the league year, including rules for full unrestricted free agency between teams includes "wrinkles" and will be more complicated than expected.
According to the documents being forwarded to all agents from the NFLPA, obtained by La Canfora, they key dates to the league year would be as follows:
Monday: The free agent list will be published at 6 p.m. ET.
Tuesday: Facilities open "for training, conditioning" and "classroom" work; trading period begins (no time specified); teams can start signing undrafted free agents and their own draft picks at 10 a.m. ET; teams can begin negotiating with any free agents -- their own and those who were with other teams.
Thursday: Waiver period begins and teams can begin terminating contracts at 4:01 p.m. ET.
Friday: Full free agency begins — teams can begin signing their own free agents and those who played with other teams at 6 p.m. ET.
The major economic framework for the deal was worked out more than a week ago.
That included how the more than $9 billion in annual league revenues will be divided (about 53 percent to owners and 47 percent to players over the next decade; the old CBA resulted in nearly a 50-50 split); a per-club cap of about $120 million for salary and bonuses in 2011 — and at least that in 2012 and 2013 — plus about $22 million for benefits; a salary system to rein in spending on first-round draft picks; and unrestricted free agency for most players after four seasons.
Now that the 32 team representatives approve a deal, the total NFLPA membership would need to vote, with a simple majority required for passage.
The 10 named plaintiffs in the players' lawsuit against the league — including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees — must officially inform the court in Minneapolis of their approval of the pact, too.
Even after that, while training camps would be opened, a true collective bargaining can't be agreed upon until the NFLPA re-establishes itself as a union. Players will need to vote to do so even as the sides put the finishing touches on a deal; only after the NFLPA is again a union can it negotiate such items as the league's personal conduct policy and drug testing.
NFL Network's Albert Breer and Jason LaCanfora and The Associated Press contributed to this report.