( ESPN.COM ) NFL owners voted to approve the proposed labor agreement with the NFL Players Association on Thursday, putting the potential end of the league's lockout in the hands of the players -- who might vote on the proposed deal Thursday night.
According to sources, owners voted 31-0 to accept the proposed 10-year collective bargaining agreement, with the Oakland Raiders abstaining. Sources told ESPN.com's John Clayton that the owners have notified the players they would accept this deal contingent on all union matters being resolved next week, and the players' association being reconstituted as a union.
The likely start of training camps is estimated to be Aug. 1, sources said.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced at a news conference in Atlanta shortly after the completion of the vote that the league has canceled the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame preseason game between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears.
Goodell said team training facilities would open Saturday and the new league year would begin next Wednesday, contingent on the NFLPA's recertification.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and Goodell on Thursday were working to impose certain conditions to immediately lift the lockout if the two sides approve a deal tonight, according to sources.
Shortly after results of the owners' vote was announced, Smith told ESPN that team representatives would examine the agreement.
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Earlier Thursday, the NFLPA had scheduled an 8 p.m. ET conference call with its executive committee and player reps to decide whether to accept an approved settlement from owners, and how to start the voting process for the 1,900 players who have to decide if they want to vote in a recertified union.
NFLPA sources say league lawyers Bob Batterman and Gregg Levy were pushing for the condition that the lockout remain in effect until the players recertify as a union. However, there was more dialogue between Goodell and Smith throughout the day to build a trust that in the event the players approve the agreement later Thursday, the lockout could be immediately lifted if the players also agree to re-certify as a union.
Players then would begin the process of acquiring enough player signatures to begin the recertification process, which would allow the 10-year agreement to formally become a collective bargaining agreement. Under that scenario, the league would open facilities so the players could use them to discuss the matter and get signed union cards as early as Friday.
Smith said the decision to recertify as a union wouldn't be taken lightly, just as the choice to decertify in March was taken seriously "because we were a real union" -- taking a shot at owners' claims that the NFLPA's decertification was a "sham."
"The decision to decertify as a union was a significant one," Smith said. "Every individual person has to make a decision on whether they want to become part of a union. The individual decisions are something that our players take extremely serious."
The players were unable to negotiate a one-time only application of the franchise tag, which is something that was of particular interest to the plaintiffs in the Brady vs. NFL antitrust case.
An NFLPA official said: "Are we happy with that result? No. Is it worth hanging up a deal with 1,900 players? No. The tag has had very few multiple uses and does carry some financial rewards for players. Not allowing more transition tags, via right of first refusal, was a big victory. That would have impact more free agents than franchise tags."
Eyewitness Sports Director Jeff Russo will continue to follow the very latest on the possible end of the NFL Lockout online at wkbw.com and on Channel 7's "Eyewitness News at 11p.m."