2011-12 NFL Season Key Dates by Lloyd Vance


Now that the league is “Back to Football”, Taking It to the House has compiled the Key Dates for the 2011-2012 NFL Season, including a recap of the NFL Lockout’s major events.  And we are certain that league talking heads, like CBS’ NFL Today crew (pictured), will have these dates circled on their football calendars too

Though the 136-Day NFL Lockout threw a ton of money wrenches into some of the league’s early season plans, the “NFL is Back”.  Here is a list of the key dates that we believe every football fan will need to know going into the 2011 NFL season — sorry included some lockout history too. 

We are sure every NFL talking head including Gus Johnson, Peter King, Chris Berman, Tony Dungy, Solomon Wilcots, and myself will have these dates circled on their calendars.


February 6  — Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas  (FOX)

February 15 – This was the first opportunity for clubs to designate franchise and transition players.  Eagles QB Michael Vick was among the players tagged as a franchise player.

February 23 – March 1 NFL Scouting Combine, Indianapolis, Indiana – The NFL’s annual pro prospect poking and prodding event

March 1 – In a court case brought by players against NFL’s television lockout “slush” fund.  U.S. District Judge David Doty (MN) rules that owners won’t get $4 billion in previously guaranteed TV revenues during the lockout.

March 3 –  By virtue of a May 20, 2008 vote to lockout the players, the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players (NFLPA) and owners (NFL) that was established after a 2006 extension is set to expire.  However both sides agree to 1-day postponement and continue negotiations

March 4 –  After the 1-day postponement, NFL owners extend negotiations with the NFLPA for one week before the lockout officially will begin

March 8 — Deadline for clubs to designate franchise and transition players.

March 11 – After talks with federal mediator George H. Cohen broke-down, the NFLPA rejected the an NFL proposal and formally decertified.  The decertification – meaning the union technically no longer existed.  The act of decertifying the NFLPA caused the NFL Lockout to become official.  And for the first time since 1987 there was labor unrest in the National Football League

March 12 – After decertification,  a group of 10 NFL players file an antitrust lawsuit against the league saying that the owners lockout was unlawful.  Suing players included stars, Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning and New England Patriots QB Tom Brady. 

March 12 – NFL Owners officially “Locked Out” players on this date.  During the lockout period players prohibited from practice at team facilities, could not receive injury treatments from teams, and team coaches and officials were not allowed to have any contact with players.

April 6 —  U.S. District Court judge Susan Richard Nelson (MN) hears arguments in the players main anti-trust lawsuit Brady v. NFL.

April 11 — Judge Nelson appoints Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan to oversee court-ordered negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA.

April 19 – 2011 NFL Schedule was released on this date (schedule maker Howard Katz).  This event also did not have as much fanfare as NFL Universe still didn’t know the certainty of the season due to the lockout

April 21 — Deadline for submission of qualifying offers by clubs to their restricted free agents (fewer than 4 years of free agency credit) whose contracts have expired and to whom they desire to retain a right of first refusal/compensation

April 25 — Judge Nelson invalidated the lockout and ordered the NFL to resume operations. The league asked for a stay while the decision could be appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  However Nelson refused and some players showed up “uninvited” to team facilities

April 28-30 — NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  This event definitely did not have the pinnace of past drafts as a lot of fans, media, and league officials attention was on the lockout situation

April 29 — The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the NFL a temporary stay of Judge Nelson’s decision.  After the stay was granted, the league reinstated the lockout following.

June 1 — Usually a big “cut” day in the NFL.  But with the NFL Lockout in place and no salary cap at the moment this date doesn’t have the significance as in years past.

June 3 – The league had another victory in court as the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision for a stay was extended for a month or so.  This decision also is accompanied by the judges telling both sides to continue mediation

June 28 – June 29 — NFLPA Rookie Symposium in Washington DC. This time the event is hosted by the player association after the NFL cancelled (June 26 at Canton, Ohio) their version of the league’s yearly freshman basic skills prep course.  In a show of support, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attend the event together.

July 8 – A major blow to the players case happened when the Eighth Circuit vacated Nelson’s ruling thus further legitimizing the owners lockout.

July 21 — NFL owners in Atlanta, Georgia announced that after several days of negotiations and lawyers fees, that they were prepared to approve a “draft” version of a new CBA.  In 31–0–1 vote (Oakland Raiders abstained…Of Course), the new deal was approved by the owners.  However the players still had to agree to the terms.

July 25 – The NFLPA’s executive board met  in Washington DC and approved the new CBA.  But this was not the end of the process as more paperwork and dotting of “I’s” and crossing of “T’s” was needed.

July 25In a symbolic gesture on the steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith signed the new 10-year, 300-page Collective Bargaining Agreement and shook hands in agreement, ending the lockout after over 4 months.  “We’re all relieved because football is back,” Goodell said. “That’s what our fans want, and that’s what we all want and we’re thrilled that we got it done.”

July 25 – The NFL published the 2011 Free Agency List, which became effective July 29th at 6PM       

July 26 – Multiple events happened on this day as the NFL moved quickly to start it’s 2011 season.

• At 10 AM ET, Club facilities opened. Players could have reported for physicals and voluntary strength and conditioning.

• At 10 AM ET, the league allowed for trading to begins for the 2011 League Year.

• At 10 AM ET,  Teams started negotiating with and could “Sign” their own drafted rookies and any undrafted rookie free agents.

• At 10 AM ET, NFL Teams could may negotiation with, but not sign, or extend Offer Sheets to, their own UFAs, RFAs, Exclusive Rights Players and Franchise Players and other teams’ UFAs, RFAs, non-exclusive Franchise Players and free agents.

July 26-27 – NFL Teams could  require a player to report for a mandatory physical in order for the player to qualify for any bonus in a preexisting contract if the “measuring date” for the bonus was pushed back to the start of the 2011 league year.

July 27 – The first set of NFL Training Camps opened for the 10 teams whose first preseason game was scheduled on August 11 (ARZ,BLT,DAL, DEN,JAX, NE, OAK,PHI, SD,SEA)         

July 28 — The second set of NFL Training Camps opened for the 10 teams whose first preseason game was scheduled on August 12 (ATL,CIN, DET, KC, MIA, NO, PIT, SF, TB, WAS).  Also on this date at 4:01 PM ET the waivers period began for the 2011 League Year

July 29 — The third set of NFL Training Camps opened for the 10 teams whose first preseason game was scheduled on August 13 (BUF,CAR, CHI, CLV, GB,IND, MIN, NYG,STL,TEN). 

July 29 — At  6 PM ET, Team could sign or extend Offer Sheets to all eligible players including drafted rookies and undrafted rookie free agents.  Teams could have such players report to the their facilities for physical examinations prior to signing.  Also eligible players could visit or try-out for any team.

July 31 – The last two NFL Training Camps open as the NY Jets and Houston Texans report.  These two teams will meet in a preseason game on August 15th

August 4 — First day of 2011 league year after the now recertified NFLPA’s players ratified the new CBA.  Also all 2011 contracts (free agents) signed on July 26 or after became effective allowing those players to finally practice

August 6 – Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 Enshrinement Ceremonies.  The newest class of enshrinees (RB Marshall Faulk, LB Chris Hanburger, Contributor Ed Sabol, CB Deion Sanders, DE Richard Dent, OL Les Ritcher and TE Shannon Sharpe) were formally inducted into the PHOF in a ceremony held at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

August 7 – Pro Football Hall of Fame Game featuring the St. Louis Rams vs. Chicago Bears had been cancelled back when the lockout ended on July 25th.  It was first time the game had not been played since

August 9 – Key day for NFL holdouts as this the Deadline Day for players under contract to report to their respective clubs, before losing an accrued season toward free agency.

August 11 -15 — First preseason weekend with featured match-ups: Thursday, August 11 – Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers – ESPN, 9 pm ET; Monday, August 15 – NY Jets at Houston Texans – ESPN, 7 pm ET

August 12 – This is a deadline involving drafted rookie players.  If a drafted rookie has not signed a  contract, then he cannot be traded during his initial league year.   The unsigned drafted rookie could also only sign a contract only with his drafting team until the next season’s draft.  By the way this deadline was “moot” as all drafted rookies signed on-time with their respective teams.

August 12 – The 2011 AFL season culminated with the playing of the 2011 ArenaBowl XXIV Championship game.  The Jacksonville Sharks defeated the Arizona Rattlers by a score of 73-70.  (NFL Network) 

August 13-17 — Each NFL team has until 5 days prior to its 2nd preseason game to tender any unsigned exclusive rights player or restricted free agent.  These dates allow teams to send written notice of their intent to place an exclusive rights or RFA unsigned player on the exempt list,  if that player fails to report before the second preseason game.

August 18-22 – Second preseason weekend with featured match-ups: Thursday, August 18 – Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers -FOX, 8pm ET; Friday, August 19 Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars -FOX, 8pm ET; Sunday, August 21 – San Diego Chargers at Dallas Cowboys  – NBC, 8pm ET; Monday, August 22 – Chicago Bears at New York Giants – ESPN, 8pm ET

August 20 – This the deadline for teams to sign  restricted free agents to offer sheets  

August 22 – The 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft is held via email.  This is the draft for “special” cases where a college player who missed the 2011 NFL Draft  gets their chance to be drafted.  Any team selecting a player in a particular round, will lose a draft pick in the corresponding round of the 2012 NFL Draft.  The 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft was postponed from August 17th as the NFL decided how to handle the case of former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor, who was ultimately allowed into the process with the caveat of a 5-game suspension to start the 2011 season.

August 24 — This the deadline for old teams to exercise their right of first refusal to restricted free agents.

August 25 – This the deadline day  for June 1 tenders to restricted free agents who have received a qualifying offer for a right of first refusal only. The prior team shall be the only team with which the player can negotiate or sign a contract during the period from Aug. 25 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season.

August 25-29 – Third preseason weekend with featured match-ups: Thursday, August 25 – Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens – ESPN, 8pm ET; Friday, August 26 – Green Bay Packers at Indianapolis – CBS, 8pm ET; Saturday, August 27 – New England Patriots at Detroit Lions – CBS, 8pm ET; Sunday, August 28 – New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders – NBC, 8pm ET

August 30 – The “Turk” will be coming around for the first time as NFL roster are cutdown to maximum of 75 players from 90. 

September 1 – 2 – The NFL preseason ends as the league’s 32 teams play their fourth preseason game with featured match-ups: Thursday, September 1 – Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals – NFLN, 7:00 PM ET; Philadelphia Eagles at NY Jets –ETN, 7:30 PM ET and Friday, September 2 – Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks – NFLN, 10:30 PM ET

September 3 – The “Turk” comes calling one last time as NFL rosters are cutdown to the regular season maximum of 53 players from 75.

September 3— If a player has received a June tender and has not signed a contract with a team by this date, then he may negotiate or sign a contract from Sept. 3 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, at 4 PM ET, only with his prior club.

September 4 — NFL teams can sign up to 8 players to their practice squad.  The players must not have over 2 years accrued service in the league and will be paid approximately $5700.00 dollars a week

September 5 — Deadline for June 15 tender to restricted free agents. If player’s qualifying offer is greater than 10 percent of the player’s prior year’s, the club may withdraw the qualifying offer on Sept. 5 and retain its exclusive negotiating rights to the player.  As long as the team immediately tenders the player a one-year contract of at least 110 percent of his prior year’s salary

September 9-13 — 2011 Kickoff Weekend. For the eighth consecutive season the Super Bowl champion will open the slate as the champion Green Bay Packers host the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 9 at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC. 

The Sunday night (9/12) primetime game will be the battle of the Ryan Brothers as New York Jets (head coach Rex Ryan) host the Dallas Cowboys (defensive coordinator Rob Ryan) — NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET.

On Monday, Sept. 13, ESPN will host a “Monday Night Football” doubleheader with the first game being New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (7:00 p.m. ET) and MNF nightcap Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (10:15 p.m. ET)

September 11 – The NFL will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 by having games in Washington DC (NY Giants at Redskins, 4:15 PM ET,FOX) and New York (Dallas Cowboys at NY Jets, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

September 20 —  A deadline day at 4 PM ET, for any club that designated a franchise player to sign that player to a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2011 season, and such contract may not be extended until after the club’s last regular-season game.

September 25 – The Indianapolis Colts host the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC).  Though early, this game could have future playoff implications as both teams are perennially at the top of the AFC.

October 2 – The Detroit Lions at the Dallas Cowboys (1 PM ET,FOX).  The Lions need to prove that they are ready for primetime when they face a very talented Cowboys team in a key NFC battle.

October 9 – The Minnesota Vikings host the Arizona Cardinals (1 PM ET, FOX) as former Philadelphia Eagles rival quarterbacks Donovan McNabb (Vikings) and Kevin Kolb (Cardinals) square-off.

October 10-12 — NFL Fall Meeting, Houston, Texas.

October 18 — NFL Trade Deadline @ 4 PM EST – This is the last chance for teams to grab players from other teams via a trade, but don’t hold your breath.

October 23 – Regular season NFL football returns to London, England for the 5th year in a row at Wembley Stadium in London as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers “host” the Chicago Bears at 1 PM EST (5:00 p.m. UK). The game will be broadcast on FOX in the United States and on Sky Sports and BBC in the United Kingdom

October 30 – The NFL returns to Toronto, Canada in Week 8 with the Buffalo Bills hosting the Washington Redskins at 4:05 PM on FOX

November 6 – Sunday Night Football will be rocking in a renewal of one of the NFL’s most heated rivalries as the Baltimore Ravens travel to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 2010 NFL Playoff Divisional Round rematch. (8:20 PM ET, NBC). We’ll see if Ravens QB Joe Flacco is finally able to cure his Pittsburgh woes.

November 10-13 – Players on NFL teams’ Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list must be activated by Week 10.  If they are not moved off the list, they must be removed from the team’s active roster to injured reserve or be released.

November 13 –  New England Patriots at NY Jets (8:20 PM ET, NBC). If you like a good old fashioned slobber-knocker, then this maybe the game for you.  The NY Jets, led by head coach Rex Ryan, are not very fond of Patriots HC Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady and trust me the feeling is mutual.  Last year the NY  Jets go revenge in the Divisional Playoffs after the Patriots had thumped them 45-3 in Week 13.

November 16 – Deadline for clubs to sign drafted players. If player remains unsigned after this date, he is prohibited from playing in the NFL in 2011.

November 24 – NFL Thanksgiving Day Games:  Green Bay Packers at the Detroit Lions (FOX, 12:30 p.m. ET), Miami Dolphins at the Dallas Cowboys (CBS, 4:15 PM ET); SF 49ers at Baltimore Ravens in the Harbaugh Bowl (NFL Network, 8:20 p.m. ET)

November 26 – The third season of the United Football League (UFL) will conclude with the playing of the league’s championship game (Versus).  After the UFL’s champion is crowned, the league’s free agents are free to sign with NFL teams for their late season playoff push.

November  27 – In a rematch of SB XXXIV, the Philadelphia Eagles will host the New England Patriots  (4:15 PM ET, CBS).   The game will be a marquee match-up of the two teams with the most highly-regarded rosters in the NFL including their respective quarterbacks, Michael Vick (PHI) and Tom Brady (NE).

November  27 — The Canadian Football League (CFL) season will commence with the playing of the 99th Grey Cup game in BC Place Stadium – Vancouver, BC (TSN)

December 4 — The annual meeting between the NFL’s most decorated quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Tom Brady) as the Indianapolis Colts visit the New England Patriots (8:20 PM ET – NBC)

December 18 – The Philadelphia Eagles host the “Brash” New York Jets (4:15 PM ET, CBS) in a battle of two teams picked to go deep in the 2011 NFL Playoffs.  We will see if this match-up lives up to all the inevitable pre-game hype.

December 24 – It is the “Battle for New York” as NY Jets host their in-stadium neighbors the NY Giants at the New Meadowlands, 1 PM ET,FOX).   I am not sure if there will be a lot of holiday cheer between NY Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and J-E-T-S head coach Rex Ryan during this Christmas Eve game.

December 25 – A Christmas Day special game as the Chicago Bears travel to the frozen tundra to face the Super Champion Green Bay Packers in a reunion of the NFL’s Oldest Rivalry (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET)


January 1 – The 2010 NFL Regular Season ends with the league scheduling 16 divisional games (all on Sunday) in hopes that teams will shy away from “resting” players.  One of the bigger games should be Tampa Bay at Atlanta, FOX, 1:00 PM ET

January 3 – NFL teams may begin signing free-agent players for the 2012 season (Future Reserves Contracts).

January 7-8 — Wild Card Weekend (NBC, CBS, and FOX)

January 9 – NFL Assistant coaches under contract to playoff teams that have Wild Card Weekend byes may interview for head coaching positions through the conclusion of wild card games.

January 14 -15 — Divisional Playoffs (CBS and FOX)

January 22 —AFC and NFC Championship Games (CBS and FOX)

January 28 – College Football’s Top Senior football players culminate a week of training by playing in the 2012 Senior Bowl at 3PM on NFL Network (Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, AL)

January 29  — NFL Pro Bowl with AFC All-Stars vs. NFC All-Stars in Honolulu, Hawaii (NBC)

February 5  — Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, IN  (NBC)


Lloyd Vance is an NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).  Lloyd can be reached on Twitter at @lloydvance_nfl


Author: lloydvance

Lloyd Vance is a NFL Writer, Analyst, Draft Expert, Researcher, and Historian. He serves as a Editor for "Taking It to the House and he covers the NFL on a daily basis. He is an Accredited Member of NFL Media and Philadelphia Eagles Media. Member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), Pro Football Researchers Association (PFRA), and The Maxwell Football Club

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