ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4/AP) – 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 4 1/2-month lockout, the longest work stoppage in league history.
Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox and General Manager Brian Xanders released the following statements on Monday regarding the new Collective Bargaining Agreement:
“This is a great day for everyone involved with the National Football League-first and foremost our fans. Our coaching staff is comprised of a great group of teachers who are eager to begin working with our players. All of us are looking forward to building relationships with our players and making the Broncos a better team.
“Our preparation has been well thought out, and we are ready for training camp and the 2011 season.”
“We are excited and ready for the start of the league year and free agency. Our pro and college personnel staffs have put in an enormous amount of preparation over the last 12 months.
“This process is very important for the success of the Broncos this season and beyond. We are fully prepared and ready to go.”
Broncos owner and CEO Pat Bowlen released the following statement:
“I am very pleased with the commitment shown by the National Football League, its owners and the players to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that is fair for everyone. As co-Chair of the NFL’s Management Council Executive Committee, I applaud the hard work of my fellow committee members throughout every step of this process.
“On behalf of our entire organization, we are extremely appreciative of the patience and trust that this community has shown in the Denver Broncos during the negotiations. We care greatly about the special relationship we have with our fans, and it was our responsibility to resolve this matter and return football to the field. The loyalty of our fans, in particular our season ticket holders, has been truly remarkable over the last few months.
“Although the offseason was unsettling for everyone, this agreement will ensure the continued growth and prosperity of this league well into the future. I am thrilled that it is finally time to turn our attention back to the game that all of us love.
“There is tremendous energy and anticipation in our building with Head Coach John Fox and his staff eager to resume working with our players and getting back on the field. John Elway and the personnel department are ready to execute their free agency plans to improve our team.
“We are all excited in advance of the 2011 season and are looking forward to a successful year of Broncos football.”
At a joint appearance outside the NFL Players Association headquarters, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith were flanked 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 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 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.
The sides worked through the weekend and wrapped up the details Monday morning on a final pact that runs for 10 years, without an opt-out clause, a person familiar with the deal told the AP on condition of anonymity.
Owners decided in 2008 to opt out of the league’s old labor contract, which expired March 11. That’s when the owners locked out the players, creating the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.
“I know it has been a very long process since the day we stood here that night in March,” Smith said. “But our guys stood together when nobody thought we would. And football is back because of it.”
As he spoke, Smith was flanked by NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Colts center Jeff Saturday and Ravens defensive back Domonique Foxworth, key members of the players’ negotiating team.
Brees was one of 10 plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit that players filed against the league. Those plaintiffs approved the deal, two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
“I believe it’s important that we talk about the future of football as a partnership,” Smith said.
Moments later, Goodell walked into the building, joined by owners Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots, John Mara of the New York Giants and Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers.
Kraft apologized to fans for having to wait out the labor turmoil.
“The end result is we’ve been able to have an agreement that I think is going to allow this sport to flourish over the next decade,” Kraft said.
A tentative timeline would allow NFL clubs to start signing 2011 draft picks and rookie free agents on Tuesday. Conversations with veteran free agents also could start Tuesday, and their signings could begin Friday.
Under the proposed schedule, training camps would open for 10 of the 32 teams on Wednesday, 10 more on Thursday, another 10 on Friday, and the last two teams on Sunday.
Both sides set up informational conference calls for Monday afternoon to go over the details of the agreement. The NFLPA told player agents they would be coached in particular on the guidelines and schedule for signing free agents and rookies; the NFL alerted general managers and coaches they would be briefed in separate calls.
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.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)