BY JIM THOMAS
Linebacker David Vobora was working out at a Chesterfield fitness center when he got the news Monday: NFL Players Association player reps had approved a new 10-year labor deal with the owners.
Immediately, his phone blew up with text messages, including one from his grandmother back home in Oregon.
"Believe it or not," Vobora said, laughing. "It might take her over an hour to formulate one text message, but yeah, I got a text from her."
It read something like this:
Congrats on being employed yet again. Love, Grandma.
As a restricted free agent, Vobora plans to sign his one-year tender offer as soon as they let him. No waiting around to see if any outside team makes him an offer. Not this year. Not after a 4½-month lockout. And not with the Rams' preseason opener against Indianapolis just 19 days away.
"It's all football now," Vobora said. "I'll be excited to have that (contract situation) behind me and just focus on the X's and O's and the playing on the field."
Similarly, Rams player rep Adam Goldberg is glad to have all the labor agreement stuff behind him.
"I'm ready to throw my phone down the storm drain and never see it again," Goldberg said. "I'm so tired of talking on the phone, and doing emails and conference calls and interviews — no offense. I'm ready to go back to my anonymity as just another grunt offensive lineman and get the labor stuff out of the limelight."
There are still some important procedural tasks remaining before the "labor stuff" is completely out of the limelight. Like all 32 NFL teams, Rams players still need to vote on re-certifying as a union, and then vote to approve the new collective bargaining agreement.
"All we did (Monday) was approve the terms of the settlement, and part of those terms are us re-certifying as a union," Goldberg said. "In order to re-certify, we've got to get to training camp because we've got to have a meeting where everyone's present."
Even though the doors of Rams Park are open this morning to players on an "unofficial" basis, the first day the Rams are able to meet as a team and can vote to re-certify is Friday — the first day of training camp.
Only meetings and physicals are allowed Friday. The first practice of Rams training camp is Saturday, but as specified in the new agreement, the first practice in pads cannot take place until the fourth day of camp — which is Monday for the Rams.
"We're going to try to get (re-certification) done as quickly as possible," Goldberg said. "We're going to try to get it done in a matter of days."
Unlike several clubs around the NFL, no Rams officials were made available to the media Monday. Coach Steve Spagnuolo, general manager Billy Devaney and executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff were holed up in their second-floor offices at Rams Park embarking on the task of taking a roster frozen at 51 players throughout the lockout and building up to the 2011 training camp limit of 90 players.
All teams could begin negotiating with rookies, whether drafted or undrafted, on Monday after the NFLPA player reps approved the labor deal. The Rams drafted eight players in April, and normally sign between 10 and 15 undrafted rookies. With the roster limit at 90 this year instead of the usual 80, the Rams could end up signing 20 to 25 undrafted rookies this season.
So it's quite possible that by sometime this evening, the Rams will have signed at least two dozen rookies — drafted and undrafted. The actual official signings cannot take place until 9 a.m. today.
When asked Monday evening if he would be signed today, third-round draft pick Austin Pettis said: "That's hopefully in the plans."
Pettis, a wide receiver from Boise State, took part in informal player-organized workouts in late May (at Lindenwood University and Lutheran South High) and in early June in the Phoenix area. Other than that, has been back home in Southern California working out on his own.
The offseason, Pettis said, "Was a little weird. Since high school I've never really had this much time off not playing the sport. Especially going through college those four years, there was a lot of stuff going on in the summer. It's been kind of an adjustment. But I'm excited it's all over and I'm finally going to get to work."
Pettis plans to fly into St. Louis on Wednesday. Many other Rams, particularly veterans, will be filing in today.
"Be there bright and early (Tuesday)," texted cornerback Ron Bartell.
Even Goldberg, who's an unrestricted free agent, plans to be at Rams Park today. Unrestricted free agents are allowed to talk to teams starting today, so Goldberg figures he can do his talking in person to the Rams.
"I think here in St. Louis we have a great football season ahead of us," Goldberg said. "I just hope to be a part of it. I love the locker room. I love my teammates. I love playing for Spags. I love my line coach (Steve Loney). I'm excited to play in (offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels' system. I think it'll be explosive and dynamic.
"So this is obviously a great situation for me. Then again it's a business, so we'll have to see how things work it."
Players aren't the only ones at Rams Park happy to see the new deal. Assistant coaches were docked what one league source said was 50 percent of their pay during the lockout. But because no games were missed (the Hall of Fame game apparently does not apply since it was an extra game scheduled after the coaches' contracts were written), all of that money is automatically refunded to the coaches.
No other Rams Park employees were asked to take pay cuts.