The four-month NFL lockout came to a close after the NFL Players Association’s executive committee voted unanimously to sign a settlement agreement Monday in Washington. The committee approved the collective bargaining agreement the owners agreed to Thursday in Atlanta sets the wheels in motion toward resumption of league activities.
Here’s a look at what likely will occur next:
Q: WHAT HAPPENS IF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE APPROVES THE CBA?
A: The league’s 32 team representatives would get the next vote via a conference call. If a simple majority gives its OK, the next step would be sending it to the 10 plaintiffs of an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning.
Q: COULD ANY OF THEM HOLD IT UP?
A: They certainly could, but that’s not likely. While some of the plaintiffs were looking to cut deals to avoid franchise tags (San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson reportedly wanted either $10 million or his release to pursue free agency), most have come out publicly or through intermediaries to say they will settle the lawsuit (known as Brady v. NFL) and clear the path toward acceptance of the CBA.
Q: WHAT’S THE FINAL STEP?
A: Before the last step, submitting the CBA to the 1,900 players for a vote, there is one more catch. The NFLPA — currently considered a trade association since being decertified in March — must recertify. That could happen as early as Tuesday, when players would be allowed to return to team facilities. Once a majority of the players approve recertification, a second vote will be taken to approve the CBA.
Q: WHEN WILL FREE AGENCY BEGIN?
A: Unrestricted free agency begins at 6 p.m. ET Friday.
However, teams will be allowed to negotiate with free agents beginning Tuesday. There will not be an exclusive negotiating period for teams to sign their own free agents.
Trades can occur as early as Tuesday. Teams can also sign their own draft picks and undrafted free agents beginning Tuesday.
Q: WHEN WILL TRAINING CAMP BEGIN?
A: According to Jay Glazer, the start of camps will be staggered, with 10 teams reporting Wednesday, 10 teams Thursday, 10 on Friday and two on Sunday — 15 days before the first preseason game
Q: HOW MANY PRESEASON GAMES ARE WE LOOKING AT?
A: There’s still a good chance most teams will get four preseason games if an agreement is approved quickly.
Q: WILL THERE BE ANY OTHER OUTSTANDING ISSUES AFTER THE CBA IS APPROVED?
A: There will be a couple, including the ratification of a new policy for banned substances. The league and the players bargain the league’s drug program independent of the CBA. The league has pushed for more stringent standards, including the addition of testing for human growth hormone. A test for HGH, however, requires a blood sample, something the NFLPA has rejected for privacy and health reasons. NFL officials also have expressed a desire to create a system in which players would get less warning for testing conducted during training camp and during the season.
Q: HOW WILL THE LEAGUE HANDLE THOSE WHO RAN AFOUL OF THE LAW DURING THE LOCKOUT?
A: Jeff Pash, the league’s chief CBA negotiator, said Thursday that the league’s personal conduct policy — something commissioner Roger Goodell takes very seriously — remained in effect even during the lockout. Expect the NFLPA to dispute that after it recertifies.