ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The NFL wrapped up a labor-intensive meeting Tuesday in less than five hours, with the league's negotiating team moving full steam ahead as time draws short for a new collective bargaining agreement before the traditional open of training camps.
Members of the NFL's labor committee, as well as Commissioner Roger Goodell, will hold a fourth set of clandestine face-to-face meetings with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and players Wednesday and Thursday in suburban Boston.
The parties are looking to build off existing momentum. According to sources in the room, the owners spent Tuesday's meetings discussing ideas and concepts, rather than specifics, as they hammer out a complex deal with many moving parts. Although no votes were taken nor proposals approved, they avoided potential hiccups that the summit might have produced.
"It was a good day in the sense of we had a full discussion on the issues," Goodell said. "Ownership is united and determined to reach an agreement and have a full 2011 season. ... The membership has a strong view of the priorities and what we need to do and a determination to get there."
NFL general counsel Jeff Pash echoed those words, saying: "I think we have a consensus within the ownership on the priorities. I think we have a consensus within the ownership on the fundamental economic principles we're looking for. And I think that's been true for some time."
Atop the agenda was updating clubs on the status of the clandestine player/owner talks that took place May 31-June 2 in suburban Chicago, June 7-9 on Long Island, N.Y., and June 14-15 on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Owners had the opportunity to voice concerns and debate issues, and so the the speed at which things moved along was considered a good sign.
"It's good that things seem to be moving," said Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a labor committee member and one of three owners who have attended all of the "secret" meetings. "But there's a lot of hard work left to be done."
This was designated as a "two-per-club" meeting and, as such, the high number of football people in attendance -- general managers such as John Schneider of the Seahawks, Scott Pioli of the Chiefs and Bruce Allen of the Redskins -- was notable. According to sources, there is logic behind that.
First, because such a small number of clubs have been involved in the "secret" meetings the last few weeks, it was important for football people to stay updated on the process to preserve competitive balance -- preventing teams entrenched in the talks to anticipate things before clubs that are more detached. And, second, the plan for how the league year would begin following a labor resolution is on the table, and football people need to be involved in that.
This isn't a sign that a deal is imminent, but it does reflect the critical juncture at which the players and owners have arrived and the importance of timing as the window shrinks to have the league up and running in time to save the preseason.
"This is the season to get something done, this is the time to get something done," said Colts owner Jim Irsay. "The energy has to continue from both sides, because it's always fragile and difficult. ... I think both sides really want to get something done at this point. In talking to people from both sides, I get that feeling."
Later, Irsay tweeted: "I'm just so f--ing excited...but I don't know why!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
One owner said that the talks remain "fragile" but that he was confident a deal could be reached within a couple of weeks.
Also making an appearance was former Vikings star Carl Eller, a plaintiff representing retired players in the consolidated Brady & Eller v. the NFL antitrust case. Eller spoke with the owners in the morning hours to make sure the interests of retirees continued to be served as the talks between the league and players moved forward.
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