Football return as CBA ratified

OWINGS MILLS – Exhaling deeply after achieving labor peace for the next decade after four months consumed by a nasty labor dispute that splintered the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens celebrated the end of the lockout. Now that a new collective bargaining agreement has been ratified, Ravens running back Ray Rice is even looking forward to rising early in the morning for practices and meetings

"I'm so excited just to be able to set my alarm clock to get up for work again," Rice told the Carroll Times. "It's been a long road for the players, the management teams, and the fans. I can't express how much the fan support has meant to me. We knew we'd play, it was just a matter of when we'd be able to get back to work."

NFL owners and players agreed to a 10-year labor deal that contains no opt-out clauses. They ultimately worked out a revenue split of $9.3 billion, a figure that's expected to grow significantly every year under the stewardship of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

"This is a good day for the NFL, all of its members and fans of our league," Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said. "I congratulate the commissioner and the Players Association leadership for reaching this agreement. We're excited to have the players coming back to our facility in Owings Mills, and we know the coaches are chomping at the bit to get the team ready for the season.

"We want to thank our business partners, suite holders and season ticket holders for sticking with us during the lockout. Your faith and financial support in us is greatly appreciated. I'd also like to give a salute to members of our Ravens family, who continued to work hard and be productive in recent months. We'll be ready for training camp and the season. It's time for football."

Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth played a significant role in the labor negotiations as an influential member of the NFL Players Association executive committee as well as Baltimore union representatives Derrick Mason and Chris Carr. "Big smile," Foxworth wrote on his Twitter account. "Football is back."

Added Bisciotti: "I salute our Ravens players for the way they handled this process, particularly Domonique Foxworth, who was instrumental in getting this agreement completed." Foxworth regularly briefed his teammates on the particulars of the labor talks, which experienced dramatic highs and lows marked by disappointing false starts and the occasional exchange of vitriol.

"Thankfully, because of guys like Derrick Mason and Dominique Foxworth who really put in some tough hours behind the scenes, we are able to get back on the field sooner rather than later," Rice said. "It was a real comfort knowing those guys were doing their due diligence and making sure we were protected."

This marked the first NFL work stoppage in nearly a quarter-century. Only the NFL Hall of Fame Game was lost, and the rest of the $200 million per week preseason was saved.

What's next for the Ravens? Players under contract can report to work as soon as today for physicals and conditioning tests. Training camp is scheduled to begin Wednesday, 15 days prior to the Ravens' Aug. 11 preseason opener on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Under new practice guidelines, the Ravens workouts will be light for the next few days. "It will be nice to go back and see the guys," punter Sam Koch said. "All that anxiety has built up. It will be fun to get back with the guys and hang out and start getting ready for the season. I'm just glad the speculation is over. I feel strong and healthy and I'm ready to work on timing."

Draft picks and undrafted rookies can sign contracts today. Third-round draft pick Jah Reid, who's slated to compete immediately for the starting right offensive tackle job, is already on his way to Baltimore.

"I just finished packing up my stuff and got my oil changed and I'm about to get on the road," Reid said. "Let's get it underway. It's very exciting. I'm feeling pretty ready to learn and absorb a lot. I plan on coming up there and hitting the ground with my feet running." Reid said he expects to agree to terms and sign his contract soon.

"I believe so," he said. "I know my agent has my best interests at heart. I know he'll try to get a good deal as fast as he can." The Ravens have already agreed to terms with undrafted University of Miami rookie running back Damien Berry and University of Maryland wide receiver La'Quan Williams. Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, an inspirational cancer survivor, has been linked to the Ravens. However, he denied signing with any team.

"For everyone I have not signed with anyone yet and am still making my decision," Herzlich announced on Twitter. "Thank you for support and I will give official word tomorrow." The Ravens shifted training camp from McDaniel College in Westminster to their training complex in Owings Mills.

Practices at team headquarters are closed to the public, but the Ravens have said they plan to conduct workouts open to fans at M&T Bank Stadium. "I can't wait to get back to work," safety Haruki Nakamura said. "The lockout lasted a long time, but you had to be discipline and work out on your own. That's what we did. Now, we're going to work hard together as a team."

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