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The NFL Players Association and the league's owners have reached an agreement on the remaining points of their labor deal to end the nearly 4 1/2 -month lockout, which is not only good for NFL fans, it's vital to the online bookmaker.
Club facilities will open to players, when 2011 draft picks and rookie free agents can be signed and the teams also could begin talking to veteran free agents. Ten NFL teams may begin their training camps as soon as Wednesday. Another 10 would open camps on Thursday, then 10 more teams on Friday and the remaining two on Sunday.
The new collective bargaining agreement keeps the regular season at 16 games, as players had opposed the league's previous proposal to increase the season to 18 games per team. But the deal stipulates the players must agree to any future change to a longer regular season.
The deal includes cutbacks in offseason workouts and reductions in hitting in practices during training camp as well as during the season. Additionally, both league and players had been in agreement on the major economic issues of their dispute.
The major economic framework for the deal includes a salary cap system by which players will receive an average of at least 47% of the sport's revenues, now about $9.3 billion annually and expected to rise sharply in future seasons, over the 10-year duration of the agreement.
The salary cap is to be set at $120.4 million per team for the upcoming season -- and at least that in 2012 and 2013 -- about $22 million for benefits, including a new salary system to rein in spending on first-round draft picks, and unrestricted free agency for most players after four seasons.
However, after NFL owners voted 31-0 to accept the proposal, players felt that some issues are still unresolved:
- A clause that would allow either side to choose out of the labor deal after seven years, the owners did not propose one.
- Settlement of lawsuits that involved the owners' lockout fund and the players' charges of collusion.
- Workers' compensation.
Finally, the first regular season game will be held on Sept. 8, when the Green Bay Packers will get the chance to defend their Super Bowl title against the New Orleans Saints.