Deal reached to end lockout; contract talks to begin Tuesday morning
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Football is back. And the craziness will begin on Tuesday.
One day after Minnesota Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson said he expected "good news", the NFL Players Association's executive committee and player representatives, including Hutchinson, approved a new labor deal with no dissention on Monday afternoon.
"It's Unanimous," NFLPA spokesman George Attalah posted on Twitter at 12:49 p.m.
Vikings end Brian Robison and linebacker Ben Leber, a pending free agent, also were in Washington to finalize the negotiated resolution of the Brady v. NFL class-action lawsuit in which they were among the 10 named plaintiffs.
Their approval was the final step needed to relaunch the NFL roughly 4½ months after owners shut their doors, the players' union decertified and the league's first work stoppage in 24 years began making its way through U.S. courts and the court of public opinion.
Commissioner Roger Goodell quickly was on his way to NFLPA headquarters for another victorious media conference -- this time with players' backing and alongside NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, four days after owners approved the deal.
"It's been a long time coming," Goodell said. "Football is back, and that's the good news."
Said Smith, "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."
Several conflicting timelines were reported before ProFootballTalk.com acquired the official "Transition Rules for the 2011 League Year" being distributed to the executive committee and player reps. The timeline includes (all times Central):
• Monday: The NFL publishes a free-agent list.
• Tuesday: Team facilities open for voluntary training, conditioning and classroom instruction. Trades begin. At 9 a.m., teams may signed drafted and undrafted rookies and negotiate with unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents, exclusive-rights players and franchise players from their own team and others.
• Thursday: At 3:01 p.m., teams may waive or terminate player contracts.
• Friday: At 5 p.m., teams may renegotiate existing player contracts and sign unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and franchise players from their own team and others.
The league year will begin no later than Aug. 4, presumably based in part on when players formally recertify as a union. When the league year begins, all teams will need to be under the salary cap (based on their 51 highest cap numbers). No payments can be made until players ratify the labor deal.
The Vikings' reporting date remained Sunday, with the first practice scheduled for next Monday, Aug. 1 at Minnesota State University, Mankato. It was unclear whether the Vikings would be fully subject to new rules regarding players' workload the first three days of camp, given they're planning to report two days later than NFL rules allow.
A lot of work is in front of the Vikings front office to set their roster before then. They have 19 unsigned players, 10 unsigned draft picks and only 51 players under contract, 39 below the expanded 90-man limit expected for camp this year.
One of the first orders of business likely will be addressing existing contracts to better position themselves against the $120.375 million salary cap. An NFL source confirmed the Vikings are about $4.773 million over the cap, not including several credits that could be applied.
Numerous Vikings also are due to receive an overdue payday soon after camp begins. Seven players have workout bonuses worth at least $100,000 that likely would be paid if they report to camp and practice as required.
The Vikings also deferred payment of signing bonuses to the likes of end Brian Robison, who will receive half of his $6.5 million signing bonus on the fifth day of the new league year and the rest in March. Players with sizable roster bonuses include receiver Percy Harvin ($2,158,500) and left tackle Bryant McKinnie ($500,000).