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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Fans win as players, owners finally are back to football

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Here come the smiles. Here come the handshakes. Here comes the we-knew-we-would-get-this-deal-done-in-time talk.

Who cares about all that now?

Here comes football.

For months, all we've had is talk of courts and negotiating and labor and trade association and a mean commissioner and big, bad NFL business treating players like the employees that they are.

Now that the two sides have agreed on a new CBA, we don't have to worry about that for another 10 years. They can tire themselves out by patting each other on the back, saying how great things are now for the NFL, but the reality is that none of that matters anymore.

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NFL football is back.

That means stocking rosters. It means trading quarterbacks. It means signing free agents to big-dollar deals and undrafted ones to deals that give them the most important thing of all: A dream.

I will be honest: I never thought the labor strife would last as long as it did. Then again, what was missed?

Aside from players sweating at team facilities instead of working out on their own and rookies losing out on valuable time to dissect the playbook, we missed very little.

What we missed was actual football chatter, which meant the junkie fans didn't get a daily NFL fix, which meant a trip to rehab for detox. Admit it, you had the shakes. That's where the anger came from during of this lockout.

Lockout is now officially the most-hated word for NFL fans, surpassing officiating.

It's also a word that doesn't have to matter for another 10 years.

By then, Peyton Manning will have broken all of Brett Favre's records, DeMaurice Smith might be running for the Oval Office and the NFL might have rules fining players just for tackling.

At least we don't have to worry about it now.

We can focus on whether Kevin Kolb will be traded. We can see who signs Nnamdi Asomugha. We can focus on which rookie quarterback is good enough to start right away.

We can all be GMs in our minds again, rather than sitting back and watching lawyers try to ruin the league. We can get excited about training camp, which will start July 27 for all teams.

We can see the Oklahoma drills in our sleep. We can see the 7-on-7 drills that separate the stars from the pretenders. We can see it all.

In fact, you've probably fantasized more about training camp this year than you would like to admit.

Now it's time for a two-week period of frenzied football talk that just might make up for the void we've had for the past four-plus months. Doesn't it seem like ages ago the Packers won the Super Bowl?

When was the draft? In 2009? It seems that long ago.

So breathe a little. We can focus on football again, not squabbling by owners and players and lawyers and judges. As the lawyers tally up how much they made from their legal fees -- more than Asomugha will get on the open market, I bet -- and Goodell and Smith each claim victory and now harmony, just remember none of that matters anymore.

Who won? We did.

NFL football is back. They tried to ruin your fall. Oh, did they try. But get ready for training camp and 10 years of labor peace.

To borrow from Smith's favorite phrase: We can all dig that.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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