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NFL Lockout: Final Steps Before Football Returns

The NFL's players and owners had a breakthrough this weekend which may lead to the end of the NFL lockout and the return of football. Heading into the weekend, the players had three major steps to take care of: resolve the settlement, recertify as a union and hammer out the final collectively bargained items.

It appears they're getting closer to that. The two sides are getting to the point where it seems most reports have the end of the lockout as a formality at this point.

There are, however, a few more steps to take. On Monday, we'll see players voting on whether to recommend the deal. They've been poring over it all weekend, talking with the owners, so expect it to be recommended.

So here's how the process will go down.  First, the players executive committee will vote (reportedly on Monday) to recommend the proposal (with all the changes made via talks with the owners over the weekend). This is an 11-man committee and they're expected to approve it. Second, the player reps -- one from each team -- will need to vote, likely via phone, to recommend the deal. Again, this is expected to happen. The 10 named plaintiffs are also expected to sign off on any deal.

From there, the players would need to sign physical union cards and that could be something that's done on the first day of training camp.

The sides are reportedly still trying to work out a scenario where the league year opens sometime this week.