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Owners, players agree on four points that will change game

The majority of what could be the 10-year collective bargaining agreement has been finalized by NFL owners and players. Some loose ends need to be tied up before players vote on if they want to join owners in ratification of a deal, but we do know some points that will be in place.

The financial structure has been set, as have most of the playing rules, length of rookie contracts and salary-cap structure. Some of the finer details -- like the overall financial specifics of the new rookie wage system and elements of potential HGH testing -- have yet to emerge, but they likely will once players ratify a deal.

For now, let's examine some of the parameters in place:

Reduction in offseason workouts and limits on padded practices

The fact that players used to spend the majority of their summers at offseason workouts, minicamps and organized team activities always seemed excessive to me. I've spoken to players who really like the notion of reduced offseason work because it reduces the wear and tear on their bodies. I agree, but here's what I'm waiting to see: Will reduced offseason workouts mean reductions in offseason workout bonuses?

As for the limited contact in training camp and during the season, this also could be good for the preservation of players' bodies and cut back on the number of blows they take to their heads. Though we see the big, one-time blows that lead to concussions, many players -- mainly linemen -- take repeated head shots, so scaling back in that regard shouldn't negatively impact the caliber of on-field play.

Game-day rosters now at 46

Teams no longer must designate their No. 3 quarterback as the "emergency" QB. This might be the best news of the year for running quarterbacks like Vince Young and coaches who can figure out ways to use them in spot situations.

In the past, teams had to designate which quarterback was the backup and stash the No. 3 signal-caller on the inactive list, with the only chance of him playing coming if one of the other two were injured. Now, with both quarterbacks free, coaches can play guessing games. Athletic backups can enter the game to run the ball or for run-pass option situations to confuse defenses. Teams also could use them at other positions (Joe Webb at wide receiver from time to time?). This seemingly subtle change could make for a lot more excitement come game day.

Training-camp rosters of 90 players instead of 80

Coaches' jobs not only will be tougher as they try to figure out if the 10 additional players can stand out, but with limited contact in training camp, some of these players' odds to make the roster will decrease even more.

Lockout coverage on NFL Network
Tune into to NFL Network for complete coverage as owners and players enter the final phase of labor negotiations to end the NFL lockout. Albert Breer, Steve Wyche and Jason La Canfora are providing live coverage from Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Most of the guys at the back end of these expanded rosters will be undrafted rookies, who are long shots as it is. A lot of them catch coaches' attention with renegade aggression during practices, frequently in one of the twice-daily workouts when veterans are held out of contact drills.

With two-a-days reduced to one practice of full hitting and another non-padded session, those gung-ho Rudys might not receive much of a look. Teams could use their starters and key backups in the padded sessions, then have them go through the non-padded practices, too, because the lack of contact in those drills diminishes the wear and tear and risk of injury.

Salary-cap exemptions in 2011 and 2012

This is good not only for teams who are up against the $120 million salary cap but also for players set up to be cap casualties.

Teams basically will have a $3.5 million credit this season to help pay veteran players. Teams also can borrow up to $3 million from future salary caps to help pay veterans. That $6.5 million cushion can be used on multiple players.

In 2012, teams can borrow up to $1.5 million against future caps for veteran players. This is the exact type of relief that teams can use to retain veterans for at least one more season, like the New Orleans Saints with safety Darren Sharper.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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