NFL lockout ends as owners approve new deal. Now what?

Owners voted Thursday to back a 10-year deal that ends the summer-long NFL lockout. If players also support the deal, then there will be a whirlwind of activity before the season opener.

John Bazemore/AP
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks on his phone during an NFL owners labor committee meeting in College Park, Ga., on Thursday. At the meeting, the owners agreed to end the NFL lockout.

Team owners on Thursday agreed to a deal to end the 127-day NFL lockout – the longest in National Football League history – so let's get ready to rumble, right?

Not so fast.

The decision by owners to approve a new 10-year-deal to share the league's $9.3 billion in annual revenue with players is, by itself, not enough for both sides to retreat to their suites and weight rooms to start prepping for the big show.

There are still some union muscles left to flex, and court battles to settle or fight – not to mention that some 1,900 players have to actually get ready to play.

First of all, more than half the players have to vote to reestablish the union they disbanded before the lockout began. How long that will take to organize and debate is not yet certain, though some indications suggested the players might take that step Thursday night.

"The decision to come back as a union is going to be an equally serious and sober one [as decertification] that they have to make," says NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith.

If and when the players recertify, then a period of frantic wheeling and dealing would ensue. Because of the lockout, free agency still hasn't started, which means this year's football rosters will get scrambled before the Sept. 8 season opener.

Fantasy football players, get ready to get confused.

The details of the deal have not yet been released, but it was believed that some unsettled business remains, including three player lawsuits against the league.

Nevertheless, Gabe Feldman, a Tulane University sports law professor, says on his Twitter feed that the dominoes should fall pretty easily into line. A deal approved by both sides would in essence gut the antitrust lawsuit brought by 10 big-name players – Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning among them – making it basically moot.

Indeed, some reporters ensconced at the Marriott outside Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport got ready to declare the lockout over as the owners' limos began lining up outside the hotel.

"Free at last, from this silliness," writes the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jeff Schultz. "Almost."

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