Owners Approve New CBA; Players Next?

The NFL looks close to getting back in business. Not yet, though.

The league announced Thursday that the owners voted to approve terms of a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement at their meeting in Atlanta, signaling that the end of a four-month work stoppage is near -- pending ratification of the deal by the players.

According to NFL Network, owners approved the new CBA by a vote of 31-0, with the Raiders abstaining. The NFLPA, who has yet to recertify as a union, reportedly met via conference call later Thursday but did not vote on the proposal.

It's uncertain when that vote will take place and whether the players will ask for more negotiation first.

Immediately following the owners' vote, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and other league officials held a press conference in Atlanta, discussing the proposal and tentative steps after joint ratification.

"We are pleased to announce that our clubs have approved the terms of a long-term negotiated agreement with the NFL players," Goodell said in a statement. "It includes many positive changes that emerged from a spirit of compromise rooted in doing what is best for the game and players. DeMaurice Smith and his team, and the players and owners involved in the negotiations, deserve great credit for their skill and professionalism.

"If approved by the players, this agreement will allow the league and its players to continue to benefit from the NFL's popularity and will afford a unique opportunity to deliver to fans an even better, safer, and more competitive game in the future."

The statement on NFLLabor.com also includes tentative dates for the 2011 league calendar year, ""contingent upon ratification of the agreement by the players prior to these dates":

On Saturday, facilities would open to players and teams would be able to negotiate with free agents and waive players. The new league year and training camps would begin Wednesday, along with official signings and trades.

As of late Thursday night, however, both sides remained closer but unfinished with this complex, spring- and summer-long negotiation.

-Rob Phillips

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