The process of ending the NFL lockout took a big step on Thursday as the NFL owners voted to approve the proposed deal with the players. All of the clubs voted in favor of the proposal except for the Oakland Raiders who abstained (shocking). The players have a conference call scheduled for tonight.
NFLPA leadership is conducting a conference call with the players at 8:00 p.m. (ET) on Thursday night. It is not clear if that call is just an update on where stands or if there will be a vote on the CBA.
The current hang up is whether the lockout will be lifted only after the players officially recertify as a union, or if the league will immediately lift the lockout under certain conditions (such as the players recertifying as a union in a certain number of days).
ESPN is saying that the league year would start Saturday with Sunday being the day where teams could start signing undrafted free agents. Free agency is tentatively scheduled to begin Wednesday July 27th.
Also of note, the Hall of Fame game has been cancelled. The first week of the preseason will be August 11-15th.
The NFL's statement is after the jump.NFL clubs approved today the terms of a comprehensive settlement of litigation and a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.
The vote was taken at a league meeting in Atlanta where the clubs were briefed on the terms of the agreement and the rules for the transition into the new League Year. The agreement must be ratified by the NFL Players Association in order for the league year to begin.
"We are pleased to announce that our clubs have approved the terms of a long-term negotiated agreement with the NFL players," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "It includes many positive changes that emerged from a spirit of compromise rooted in doing what is best for the game and players. DeMaurice Smith and his team, and the players and owners involved in the negotiations, deserve great credit for their skill and professionalism. If approved by the players, this agreement will allow the league and its players to continue to benefit from the NFL’s popularity and will afford a unique opportunity to deliver to fans an even better, safer, and more competitive game in the future.
"On behalf of the NFL, our teams and players, I want to express our deep appreciation to Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan. Judge Boylan was the court-appointed mediator, but his contributions far exceeded that role. His patience, determination, and commitment helped keep everyone focused on the goal, and helped lead us to today's announcement."
The NFL announced that players can begin voluntary workouts at club facilities on July 23 if the NFLPA Executive Board approves the settlement terms. Following the reconstitution of the NFLPA as a union and approval of the new CBA by the NFLPA membership, the League Year and free agency signings will start at 2:00 PM ET on July 27 and training camps for all teams will open on July 27. Day one activities will be limited to physicals, meetings, and conditioning. Players will practice without pads on days two and three.
As part of the transition rules for the 2011 League Year, the parties have agreed that the CBA’s specified deadlines for certain free agency contract tenders will be delayed to the dates indicated below. For example, the deadline for the CBA’s "June 1 Tender" to Unrestricted Free Agents will be changed from June 1 to August 12.