Finally, the Chicago Bears can start preparing for football.
After 136 days of a lockout, the NFL is back. The players association's executive committee unanimously voted to recommend the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated between the owners and players. That move will end the longest work stoppage in NFL history.
Representatives from both sides appeared in a joint conference minutes after the collective bargaining agreement was signed.
"It's been a long time coming, and football is back," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "That's good news for everybody. Having a 10-year agreement is great for our game and the fans. This agreement is going to make game better."
"I'd like to apologize to fans for talking about the business of football and not what goes on in the field, but the end results is that we have an agreement that will allow the sport to flourish for the next decade," said Roger Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots.
"We're standing on the eve of when football get back to business. Our players can't be more excited about doing the thing they love to do most," said Kevin Mawae, one of the leading player representatives.
The deal is for 10 years with no opt-outs, meaning that football will be uninterrupted for at least a decade. Draft picks and undrafted rookies can be signed starting Tuesday, and players can be cut starting Thursday. Free agency starts Friday at 5 p.m. CT. Once the union is recertified, the two sides will continue to negotiate health and safety issues because the decertified union had no power to discuss such issues.
For the Bears, this means that training camp in Bourbonnais will open on Friday. The first pre-season game will be Saturday, Aug. 13 against the Buffalo Bills, just six days after their scheduled first game at Hall-of-Fame weekend.