After nearly five months, the NFL lockout is over. NFLPA spokesman George Atallah tweeted out two words that mean so much to football fans everywhere:
Meaning the players have officially voted -- and approved -- the proposal from the owners which ends the NFL lockout. All that remains is the players reforming as a union which is a formality at this point. The guesswork is over.
The labor dispute really started when the two sides extended the previous collective bargaining agreement in 2006. Shortly after that, more than a few owners recognized that they actually didn't have a deal that they thought was fair and opted out of the deal as early as the deal allowed in May 2008.
The owners and players had more than two years to come to a new labor agreement but there was no real pressure on either side to do one in that time so, like a lot of negotiations, it came down to the final minutes.
On March 11, the players decertified as a union and planned to sue the league because they felt that gave them the most leverage. Likewise, the league felt locking the players gave them the most leverage so they instituted a lockout at midnight on March 12.
From there, the lockout was on. It was technically lifted for a brief few days the week of the 2011 NFL draft, a time when some players were able to see the coaching staff, even if for a few hours. The 8th Circuit stepped in later that week and ruined the fun ruling that the lockout would remain in place.
The lockout officially came to an end on Monday when the two sides agreed to a new labor deal.
In all, those four-and-a-half months were forgettable, at best. There was no free agency. The players couldn't meet or talk with the coaching staff. There were no practices. There were no fun press conferences introducing the rookies after the draft. There was nothing for the fans except to listen to prepared statements from Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith.
But that's all over now as we prepare to return to football. Free agency, contracts, training camp and all that good stuff will make the next week in the NFL the fastest moving we've ever seen.