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Football is back: Both Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith herald the end of the lockout

07.25.11 at 2:55 pm ET
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The longest work stoppage in NFL history came to an end Monday when the players unanimously signed off on the new collective bargaining agreement, paving the way for a new 10-year agreement between both sides.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith were joined by several key figures in the process like players Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth and owners like Robert Kraft of the Patriots and Carolina’s Jerry Richardson. As a group, they all stood together Monday afternoon after a 136-day lockout just outside the NFLPA offices in Washington, D.C. and heralded the return of the game.

“It’s been a long time coming, but football’s back, and that’s great news for everybody,” said Goodell.

“Thanks to everybody who has been involved in this,” Smith said. “It has been a very, very long process.”

“We didn’t get everything that either side wanted … but we did arrive at a deal that we think is fair and balanced,” Smith added.

The two sides worked through the weekend and wrapped up the details early Monday on a pact that will last 10 years without an opt-out clause. The details of the agreement are still unclear, but it’s been reported that teams will be able to get back to the business of football later this week, with players able to report to facilities this week, training camp starting later this week and free agency commencing at the end of the week.

One of the most poignant moments in the brief media availability came when Saturday acknowledged the support each and every one of the wives of the men involved in the process, and the added a special thank you to Kraft’s wife Myra, who passed away last week after a lengthy illness.

“A special thanks to Myra Kraft, who even in her weakest moment, allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out,” said Saturday, who shared an embrace with Kraft. “Without him, this deal does not get done. … He is a man who helped us save football. We’re gracious for that, we’re gracious for his family, and the opportunity presented to get this deal done.”

“To echo what Jeff said about Mr. Kraft, we couldn’t have done it without you. We took a day on Friday to remember a great woman,” Smith said, recalling last Friday’s service where talks were put on hold because of Myra Kraft’s funeral. “I’m thankful for what she meant to the city of Boston and I’m especially thankful for what you mean to the game of football.”

“I’d like to apologize to the fans, that for the last five, six months we’ve been talking about the business of football, not what goes on on the field in each market,” Kraft said. “But the end result is we’ve been able to have an agreement that will allow this sport to flourish over the next decade. We’ve done that in a way that is unique among the major sports — every team in our league, all 32, will be competitive. We’ve improved player safety and we’ve remembered the players who’ve played in the past.”

He added that the politicians could take a cue from what they were able to accomplish with the new labor deal.

“The debt crisis is a lot easier to fix,” he said with a small smile.

Read More: DeMaurice Smith, Domonique Foxworth, Jeff Saturday, Jerry Richardson
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