John Beck couldn't contain himself after learning the news. The Washington Redskins' quarterback drove straight to team headquarters Monday afternoon when he found out the 32 representatives to the NFL Players' Association unanimously approved a deal to end the lockout.
"I didn't even get to get in the gate," Beck lamented.
Turns out he was a bit too eager, which is understandable. After the 135-day lockout canceled the Redskins' offseason program, Beck and his teammates finally can get back to work Tuesday at 10 a.m. when players are allowed to report for physicals and voluntary strength and conditioning workouts.
It will be their first access to Redskins Park since an appeals court temporarily put the lockout on hold for a few hours in late April.
"I'm just excited that this is done," Beck said.
Although he was stopped at the front gate to Redskins Park by a security guard who didn't know who he was, Beck could see the practice fields have been transformed for training camp.
"They had the ropes up," he said. "They had the Redskins souvenir truck ready to go. All of a sudden I got that feeling. It's football season, and it's exciting."
It's certainly more appealing than talk of lawyers, revenue and bargaining. That was evident in how quickly the league's focus turned to the on-field product shortly after the vote was announced.
The Redskins will begin training camp Thursday, but the team had not released a schedule of practices by Monday night. The proposed deal that NFL owners ratified last Thursday limits the first day of camp to physicals, meetings and conditioning, with pads prohibited until the fourth day.
Players enthusiastically welcomed the news. Veteran defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday, the Redskins' NFLPA representative, said he felt a "sigh of relief, certainly a celebration for a job well-done."
Players chafed when owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement three years ago and locked players out March 12, but Holliday believes they are better off for it.
Their new 10-year agreement with the owners reduces the number of offseason practices, as well as in-season practices during which players are required to wear pads. It also provides for a salary floor and retiree benefits of between $900 million and $1 billion over the life of the agreement. Neither side can opt out of the CBA early, according to the NFL Network.
"If they didn't lock us out ... I don't know if we would have been able to achieve the significant gains that we made as players," Holliday said.
Rookies and undrafted free agents may start signing contracts at 10 a.m. Tuesday, the same time at which clubs may start negotiating with - but can't sign - their free agents. Teams can begin to sign any veteran free agent - from their team or another - Friday at 6 p.m.
Redskins first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan planned to pack his things in Indiana on Tuesday night and travel to Northern Virginia in the morning. He had to check whether he could report to headquarters while he is unsigned - an uncertainty indicative of these unprecedented times in the NFL. As it turns out, he is permitted to take part in meetings and strength training but not any on-field practices.
At the very least, he plans to be under contract by the time training camp starts Thursday. The new entry-level compensation system will limit new players' salaries, but it does not slot them into a specific amount. There still is room for individual negotiation, but Kerrigan does not want to hold out.
"Who wants to miss practice?" Kerrigan said. "I want to get better, especially since I'm making the transition [from defensive end] to outside linebacker."
Beck, meanwhile, is itching to begin the Redskins' summer quarterback controversy. He likely will compete for the starting job with Rex Grossman, a free agent the Redskins are expected to re-sign by the end of the week.
"When I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning, that's what I've been striving after," Beck said. "This is it. This is what I've put in all the work for. I'm just excited to get going."
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