By Jamison Hensley, The Baltimore Sun
9:06 PM EDT, July 23, 2011
NFL owners and players have tentatively agreed to a plan that would allow for the players' executive committee to vote Monday to recommend accepting the collective bargaining agreement and end the league's 4-month-old lockout, according to multiple reports.
After an emotional few days which spurred confusion and frustration, the sides made major progress in closing the gaps on the few remaining issues Saturday, all of which should bring the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 to an end.
A source told ESPN that the 11-member NFLPA executive board — which includes Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth — will meet in Washington on Monday to endorse the 10-year CBA and recertify as a union.
According to ESPN, players could return to team facilities as early as Wednesday to vote on recertifying. The lockout would officially be over once the players vote to approve the deal, which could allow training camps and free agency to begin Saturday, the NFL Network reported.
"Every player feels the same way. We're getting ready to go, we just have to know when to go," Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said Saturday night. "I think it'll end up that I will be in town Wednesday. Wouldn't be surprised if we have to show up Friday or Saturday for camp. I know we're very close. We're not in any rush. It's a 10-year deal and you can't jump into it. You have to nail everything down."
The lockout has already prompted the Ravens to move training camp from McDaniel College to team headquarters in Owings Mills.
The push to conclude the lockout Saturday followed a couple of wild days in the NFL. The owners proudly announced Thursday that they had voted to ratify the CBA, which included the return of the salary cap, a reduction in offseason workouts for players and the continuation of a 16-game regular season. That put the pressure on the players to sign off on the deal.
The players appeared to be caught off guard by the move because they said no one had given them the owner-approved documents. They told the owners they needed time to review the CBA and ultimately decided not to vote over the weekend.
If the sides strike a deal this week, the first full week of the preseason will probably be saved. The Ravens' preseason opener at Philadelphia is scheduled for the second weekend in August.
While fans have begun to celebrate the pending return of football, some players remain skeptical.
"Over the last few months I've learned that "close" can mean months," Ravens rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith said on Twitter.
Other Ravens were optimistic that a deal was looming.
"We're all confident there will be a season," wide receiver Anquan Boldin told reporters Friday at Ed Reed's golf tournament. "It's just a matter now of tying up loose ends."
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