Updated: 7:10 p.m.
Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko uttered what football fans everywhere were thinking Monday when the 136-day lockout ended.
"It's like Christmas at my house," Peko said. "Everyone is walking around laughing with a smile on their face."
After players chief DeMaurice Smith confirmed his 32 player representatives—among them the Bengals' Andrew Whitworth—voted unanimously Monday to approve a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, the NFL officially released the whirlwind timetable everyone expected.
Paul Brown Stadium is open to players Tuesday and the league kept the Bengals report date to Georgetown College as Thursday, although they could report the next day. On Monday night they were allowed to start talking to college free agents but not sign them until Tuesday at 10 a.m. Also Tuesday at 10 a.m., teams can trade players as well as sign drafted and undrafted rookies. They can also open negotiations with all veteran free agents, but not sign them officially until Friday.
Also Thursday teams can start releasing players into the waiver system that starts at 4:01 p.m. Any deal signed with a free agent or restricted free agent is binding, but they can't get on the field until the NFLPA approves a CBA, which it is supposed to by by Aug. 4. They can attend meetings.
Smith and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appeared at a Washington D.C. news conference at the NFL Players Association offices where Goodell said, "a 10-year agreement is extraordinarily great for our game."
It appears the Bengals are headed to Georgetown College later this week to open training camp. Indications are the Bengals could push back their report date by just one day, heading to the Georgetown, Ky., campus Friday and practicing Saturday.
An announcement probably comes at Tuesday's 11:30 a.m. annual media luncheon at PBS.
Tuesday through potentially Thursday looks to be voluntarys gig and it is probably going to be mainly a classroom session because players can't work out until they get physicals. Once they get to camp, reports have been saying the players can't wear pads the first three practices.
Also Thursday teams can start releasing players into the waiver system that starts at 4:01 p.m. Any deal signed is binding, but ony goes into effect if the NFLPA approves a CBA by Aug. 4, first day of the league year. Plus, free agents that sign a deal can't get on the field until Aug. 4.
The first shoe in free agency dropped when the league released names of all restricted and unrestriced free agents Monday night. The Bengals gave evidence of their desire to sign restricted free agent center Kyle Cook to a long-term deal when they tendered him a one-year deal worthy of a second-round draft pick. Quarterback Jordan Palmer, a sixth-rounder, and left guard Nate Livings and right tackle Dennis Roland, undrafted college free agents, were tendered deals matching those selections.
Just how quickly players can get into town on that late notice is also an open question. No matter when it starts, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is faced with a delicate situation. Two-a-day practices in training camp have been outlawed and teams haven't been able to rehab their injured players or keep tabs on their roster's physical conditioning. Strength coach Chip Morton has said the opening physicals are going to be pretty standard as they put players through some movement drills to get a gauge on health and cardio.
Whitworth, who plans to show up at PBS Tuesday morning, stayed in Cincinnati and voted via the conference call.
"It was a long process, but in the end it was a good deal for both sides," Whitworth said. "We got the reduced offseason and less contact in practice and the minimum spending raised. And the owners got a break on the (salary) cap. It was going to be about $140 million this year and now it's ($123 million)."
Whitworth said the new rule limiting padded practices to 14 per year should help the veterans, guys that take most of the snaps. The rule outlawing two-a-day practices at camp, he says, should help rookies.
"I don't think we're a team that overly hit a lot, but there were other guys on other teams that were adamant about it with the situations they're in," Whitworth said. "Having just one practice a day at camp should help the young guys. In that walkthrough every day the game can slow down for them and they can see what they're doing wrong."
Left end Carlos Dunlap, coming off a Bengals-rookie record 9.5 sack-season, tweeted, "It's official. Back to the game #Whodey," while fifth-round pick Robert Sands, a safety from West Virginia, weighed in with a tweet to fellow rookie Torrey Smith," FOOTBALLS BACK!!!! FOOTBALLS BACK!!!!"
Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco fired out, "No I'm not happy yet. Still waiting on 1 thing." The Ocho wouldn't say, but his status has been in question all offseason with one year at about $6 million left on his deal.