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What's it really like at the NFL Annual Meeting?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL Annual Meeting is a wrap.


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Our little team of scribes has stumbled across plenty of hard news since arriving Sunday night, but the gig is up.

As we pack our bags to head home, a few quick thoughts on what Gregg "The Boss" Rosenthal and I have seen and heard here in the hallways and passages of the swanky Ritz-Carlton:

1. No event on the league calendar offers more relaxed, easy access to the NFL's collage of figureheads. With the season's long grind in the rear-view mirror and free agency largely out of the way, most coaches and general managers were more than happy to let their guard down. The swath of hotel bars was packed nightly with high-octane league brass, a sight that stunned unsuspecting holiday-goers.

2. I kept imagining the 12-year-old me wandering into a lobby where John Elway's talking shop with a jolly, Hawaiian-shirt-clad Andy Reid while John Fox holds court with a gaggle of writer-types. The unmistakable twang of Jerry Jones was a constant. I crept away from the masses at one point to make a phone call and passed Jeff Fisher, Jimmy Haslam, Rex Ryan and Reggie McKenzie all in the matter of 200 feet. Over in the corner: Ozzie Newsome and Scott Pioli locked in serious conversation while a steady stream of NFL WAGs wandered in from sunlit, utopian poolsides. Total wonderland of the senses.

3. A Tuesday night league-sponsored gala mixed us grimy media folk with every heavy hitter from all 32 teams. Perfect chance to turn off the recorders, deep-six the notebook and have a non-stalkerish conversation with the people we cover -- and occasionally fry -- on NFL.com. Minutes through the door, Rosenthal and I were sipping drinks across from CNN's Anderson Cooper, entertaining a flock of NFL wives with stories from Beirut. Highlight of the night was talking with Mike Pettine about his decision to buy a house mere seconds from the Browns complex. Only NFL coach who walks to work? Has to be. Pettine also confirmed he still keeps a copy of The Warren Commission tucked away in his office: The man thinks differently.

4. A few other names who impressed us this week: (a) Gus Bradley, who comes across as the ideal coach for the young Jaguars and someone who's grown fully into his role in Year Two. (b) Seattle general manager John Schneider is always worth talking to: down-to-earth, self-effacing and always seen at these events with a giant backpack, presumably stuffed with top-secret info on the destiny of the Seahawks. (c) Nobody here changed my mind more than Reggie McKenzie. The Raiders general manager has taken a media beating this offseason, but what I encountered in person was a guy willing to thoughtfully explain and unpack every decision he's been a part of in Oakland. Rosenthal also thought Dennis Allen was the bee's knees, so take heart Raiders faithful -- hope exists.

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5. The week essentially is a mini-vacation for these NFL luminaries, save for the presence of nosy journalists lurking in every corner. We tried to give these men a little peace along the way. "The Boss" and I on Tuesday allowed the elusive Chip Kelly to pass by unbothered as he wandered down a corridor decked out in jogging garb. Earlier in the day, Bill Belichick and longtime GF Linda Holliday strolled by a pack of reporters in sweaty tennis duds. Nobody blinked an eye. It was just another moment in the strange, dreamlike flow of events now suddenly a memory. Back to reality we go.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" breaks down all the latest news at the NFL Annual Meeting.

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