SPORTS

NFL owners and players agreed to a deal early Monday

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One thing owners originally sought and won't get, at least right away, is expanding the regular season from 16 games to 18. That won't change before 2013, and the players must agree to a switch.

Brandon Banks runs for glory. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

"We heard the players loud and clear. They pushed back pretty hard on that issue," said Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the league's competition committee.

The deal would make significant changes in offseason workout schedules, reducing team programs by five weeks and cutting organized team activities (OTAs) from 14 to 10 sessions. There will be limited on-field practice time and contact, and more days off for players.

Current players would be able to stay in the medical plan for life. They also will have an injury protection benefit of up to $1 million of a player's salary for the year after his injury and up to $500,000 in the second year after his injury.

A total of $50 million per year will go into a joint fund for medical research, health-care programs, and charities.

If the players approve the deal, the NFL would go back to football pretty quickly:

—On Saturday, teams can stage voluntary workouts at club facilities, and players may be waived. Contracts can be re-negotiated and clubs can sign draft picks and their own free agents. Teams can also negotiate with, but not sign, free agents from other clubs and undrafted rookies.

—On Sunday, teams can sign undrafted rookies.

—On Wednesday, the league year officially begins, so free agency opens in full, and all training camps will open with a 90-man roster limit; activities that day will be limited to physicals, meetings and conditioning. All clubs must be under the salary cap.

—Players can practice without pads next Thursday and Friday.

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