CHANTILLY, Va. --- No overall lockout vote was taken during the three-hour NFL owners' meeting here today, but a league spokesman said the labor committee would be the authority that would order a lockout. And that can't happen before midnight Thursday.
Most owners, even on the labor committee, which met after the general meeting, indicated they were headed home last night, but commissioner Roger Goodell and two of his top lieutenants headed back into the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services offices around 8 p.m., presumably to resume talks.
Despite the talks, which are scheduled to continue tomorrow, union decertification and a lockout, which would then move the battle to the courts via antitrust suits, seem likely.
A few owners stopped to speak with reporters after the general meeting broke up. They voiced mild, nonspecific optimism. There has been no indication of progress on the key issue of revrenue distribution; the owners want a bigger share than they get under the current CBA.
"Nothing is definitive as far as a lockout or anything like that," Colts owner Jim Irsay said. "As of tonight, we’re continuing the process of discussing all the issues, and the full membership being updated.
"We really didn’t vote on anything. It was more just a thorough update and a chance to ask questions and that sort of thing. We didn’t break the room with a lockout vote or anything like that."
Does Irsay expect the game to shut down at midnight Thursday?
"Going through these things in the '70s and '80s, I never have expectations except 'A, B, C, D, E and always plan for F' because it changes. It’s a chess board that moves around and things change, things happen at unusual hours. I don’t want to put any certainty (to) what the evening will bring tomorrow.
"I remember last time (in 2006), everyone broke away and (commissioner Paul Tagliabue) texted (then-union chief) Gene Upshaw, and they hooked back up beyond the 11th hour. I think Gene already had started ordering drinks to either celebrate or drown his sorrows."
Irsay seemed to be hinting at a lockout when he said: "In business, you have to have contingencies to go forward. More will be revealed, but we’ll go to work tomorrow and see what happens."
Irsay concluded that "there’s always (a chance for) progress when you’re talking, when you’re moving forward."
Jets owner Woody Johnson said: "We're working on an agreement. We're still working hard. I think there's good intentions on both sides. Hopefully, with good intentions, we'll get something done."
Asked if he was more optimistic than when he arrived, Johnson said he was not, "but I'm eternally optimistic anyway, that's why I'm in sports."
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and team president Joe Banner practically sprinted past reporters in the hotel lobby, "The federal mediator prohibits any comments," Lurie said.
League spokesman Greg Aiello said: "Our commitment is to get a fair agreement as soon as possible without any distruption to the season. We’re fully focused on that goal."
Aiello said the NFL has not decided whether to appeal U.S. judge David Doty's ruling Tuesday that the league can't use $11 million in lockout contingency money it negotiated in its current TV contracts. Aiello said the ruling was not unexpected.