WASHINGTON, D.C. - Keep your fingers crossed on this one, but it looks as if football could officially be back sometime today.
After a marathon negotiating session that didn't end until after 4 a.m. today, owners and players have reached tentative agreement on a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement, according to Jay Glazer of FoxSports.
A league source told Newsday this morning that he believed a deal was in place, but that nothing would be official until after players signed off on the contract. A source from the players' side said he had not heard anything official about a deal, but would know more when he met with the players' negotiating team later this morning.
The NFL Players Association is meeting today in Washington to discuss the deal, and a vote is expected sometime this afternoon. There are plans to hold a press conference afterward, and the leaders from both sides - NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell - are expected to deliver the news, barring any last-minute holdups.
The NFL's lockout, which began March 13, has lasted more than four months.
Players could start to report to their respective teams as early as tomorrow to begin the process of recertifying the union. The NFLPA had decertified on March 11, the same day 10 players filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. Under terms of the new CBA, all legal actions by both sides will be dropped.
Once the NFLPA's executive committee approves the deal, there will be a highly condensed timeframe to open free agency and the start of training camps. It is anticipated that all teams will have opened training camps by the end of the week. The league is expected to stage its first full preseason weekend after canceling the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
The Chargers host the Seahawks on Aug. 11, followed by the Bucs-Chiefs on Aug. 12. The other 30 teams are scheduled to play that weekend, although no specific dates have been given because of the lockout. The Giants are at Carolina and the Jets are at Houston in their respective preseason openers.