New York Times – breaking – NFL set to play

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Hey get your butts off the beach players. Time to get back to work! Photo by Dan Devine.

Gav- A nice little riff and roar from my fave Judy at the Times. We are back to the football wars. After some low level whining from fans of fantasy the world over.

I care only about my Vikings and the fact that Brett Favre is in the headlines again and apparently headed on the wings of Phoenix to Philly?

Diva is as Diva does. More lives than the Highlander apparently.

By Judy Battista – NY Times

WASHINGTON — Mike Westhoff, the Jets’ special-teams coach, has had his carefully researched list of free-agency targets ready to go for months. On Monday morning, he was staring at a roster on his office wall full of blank spots, and preparing to pick up the phone to start recruiting the players he wants the Jets to sign as soon as he is allowed.

Across the country, some of the most prominent agents in the game were preparing to sleep in their offices, the better to manage the expected round-the-clock negotiations to come.

After nearly five months of inactivity by all but a handful of negotiators, the N.F.L. sprang to life again Monday when 32 player representatives voted unanimously to recommend approval of a 10-year labor deal that owners largely approved last Thursday.

With an apology to the fans from the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and the applause of a few spectators who had gathered on a sidewalk to witness the announcement, the process to lift the lockout was put in motion. The longest work stoppage in the game’s history thus ended with only the loss of the Hall of Fame exhibition game.

After the final details were worked out Monday morning, the lawyers who were the pre-eminent figures of the unusual off-season finally gave way to coaches and players desperate to get on the field and to an expected frenzy of player signings and trades the likes of which the N.F.L., normally a model of meticulously planned stasis, has never experienced.

Rookies can start signing contracts and every other free agent can begin negotiating them Tuesday, when trades can also begin; teams will start opening training camps Wednesday; and Friday, about 400 free agents can begin joining new teams — five months of activity being funneled into just a few weeks.

“Chaos; the best word for it is chaos,” said Tony Richardson, the veteran fullback, who is a member of the players association’s executive committee.

The agent Joel Segal, whose clients include Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, said: “It is going to be fast, furious and at a pace like we’ve never seen before. This will be unprecedented in speed.”

The N.F.L. hopes it doesn’t experience it again for a long time. The 10-year agreement does not include an opt-out clause, a provision players wanted but owners resisted, arguing that financial certainty would be critical when the league starts renegotiating television contracts in the next few years. That issue was settled Monday morning.

For now, the league and players will immediately begin to negotiate final elements of a collective bargaining agreement, including drug testing and personal-conduct policies, and the union will be re-formed so that all 1,900 players can vote to ratify it by Aug. 4. If those items are not completed by Aug. 4, the settlement will be void. That, said the players association executive director DeMaurice Smith, is not going to happen.

As much as the agreement ends a time of remarkable tumult for the N.F.L., it initiates a period of change. Coaches had been scrambling to adjust their training-camp and regular-season schedules for at least a week, ever since players and owners settled on new restrictions that limited the amount of full-contact practices.

General managers and salary-cap specialists spent a day last week being briefed on new rules, including a $120 million salary maximum per team and a rookie wage system that will severely curtail the outsize contracts that had been given to top draft picks. Teams’ rosters for training camp can have 90 players, 10 more than in previous years. Some teams may not bring in that many — there will be limited time to work with inexperienced players because coaches will be more focused on getting players ready for regular-season games.

The changes figure to be especially daunting for the eight teams that have new head coaches and for other teams that have new offensive or defensive coordinators, some of whom have not yet had a chance to meet with their players.

Lost to the lockout were the off-season practices and classroom sessions that typically familiarize players with new playbooks and coaches with new personalities, setting teams in transition even further back. The uphill climb might be toughest for the Carolina Panthers, with a new coaching staff and a rookie quarterback, Cam Newton, the first overall draft pick.

The latest news, notes and analysis of the N.F.L. playoffs. and players will be under pressure to make fast decisions — it’s unlikely that even coveted free agents will take multiple trips to visit suitors, as they usually do — emphasizing the glaring differences in how teams manage free agency. Teams like the Patriots, the Colts and the Steelers, who have stable front offices and know exactly what kind of players they want, will handle this unusual stretch as well as they do a regular off-season. And teams that typically struggle in free agency, like the Bengals and the Jaguars, will almost certainly struggle under the difficult conditions.

“The first group of players will get their money — that always goes fast anyway, and this year it might go a little faster,” said Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the Washington Redskins and the Houston Texans. “That second level, that normally can take three or four months, is now a matter of days if not hours. That second level is going to make quick decisions.”

And because teams will now sign rookie draft picks at the same time as free agents, older veteran players , who in a normal year might have found a plentiful market for their services, could get squeezed because teams have already filled their needs with draft picks.

“Good players get jobs and get money,” Casserly said. “You’ll see a lot of short contracts for older vets. The second-level players are going to be disappointed in the money and some of them will be smart enough to get a job quickly. You’ll see a lot of one-year contracts because they’ll think they can try again next year.”

When football will finally be back to normal.

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