NFL fans can look forward to a 2011 season as the players have voted to OK a final labor deal and end the 4 1/2-month lockout.

By: AP
By: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- NFL fans can look forward to a 2011 season as the players have voted to OK a final labor deal and end the 4 1/2-month lockout.
It was the longest work stoppage in league history.
Appearing at a joint news conference outside the NFL Players Association headquarters with NFLPA head DeMaurice (deh-MOHR'-his) Smith, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (guh-DEHL') said, "this is a long time coming, and football's back."
Smith said "we didn't get everything that either side wanted...but we did arrive at a deal that we think is fair and balanced."
The owners overwhelmingly approved a proposal Thursday, but some unresolved issues still needed to be reviewed to satisfy players. The owners do not need to vote again.
A person familiar with the deal says both sides worked on it through the weekend and wrapped up the details Monday morning. It's a 10-year pact that does not include an opt-out clause.
A tentative timeline would allow NFL clubs to start signing 2011 draft picks and rookie free agents on Tuesday. Teams can start talking to veteran free agents that day as well, and can start signing them Friday.
Under the proposed schedule, training camps would open for 10 of the 32 teams on Wednesday and they'd all be up and running on Sunday.
Meanwhile, teams are restoring pay to employees who lost wages during the labor dispute.
A person familiar with the situation says employees of the Miami Dolphins have had their salaries returned to previous levels -- effective immediately. And the New York Jets have recouped all lost wages to business-side employees who took unpaid furloughs during the lockout and coaches who took pay cuts.
With the end of the lockout, Super Bowl organizers can sack their backup plan. A spokeswoman for the Indianapolis host committee says she expects NFL officials to give them the official word soon that they can cancel plans for a Feb. 12 Super Bowl. The game is scheduled for Feb. 5.
The league asked Indy to keep both weekends open when the city made its bid to host the league's title game.


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