ATLANTA -- Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner are here meeting with other NFL owners and executives on a day that league officials hope can produce votes to soon end the league’s lockout. (Howie Roseman has joined a little later in the afternoon).
“I’m optimistic that we’ll get approval,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said on his way in, according to AP.
UPDATE: But NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith gave observers reason to wonder if everything will go so smoothly. Smith, speaking to reporters in Washington just before 3 p.m., said the decision to re-certify the players' union -- a critical part of a deal, from owners' perspectives -- should be taken "extremely seriously." In other words: it won't necessarily happen very quickly. That could be a big snag. Owners want the union back in operation, because having it gives them anti-trust protection. Without the union back, it's not clear if a settlement can be completed. Owners, afer a lunch break, are back in talks as of 3 p.m.
The lobby of the Atlanta Airport Marriott has been taken over by an encampment of reporters from national and local outlets, all, like fans, still awaiting word on a deal that would end the NFL’s shut down and assure everyone that at least training camps will have some semblance of normalcy.
Players still need to give a final go ahead to a deal as well, after declining to do so Wednesday in Washington. Player representatives from the 32 teams did give their top negotiators the go ahead to finish a deal, according to various reports, but not before several concerns are ironed out. Among them: $320 million in benefits the owners did not have to pay last year but players want; compensation for two player plaintiffs who were prevented from reaching free agency last season and settling the various lawsuits players have still hanging over the league.
It will take 24 of 32 owners to ratify a legal settlement and new collective bargaining agreement. The players plaintiffs would also have to agree to settle, and then players would have to re-form their union and a majority of the nearly 2,000 players would have to approve a new CBA. UPDATE: The NFL Network has reported that the players have a conference call scheduled for this evening - though it's not clear if that will be for a vote, or some other reason.
Owners have said they are hopeful that could all be done Thursday. But according to some reports, the players are saying it might take weeks to reform their union. If that’s the case, it could mean a delay in resuming business as usual, since the owners want the union back in place as part of a new CBA.
(And if you want to know why, you should be in law school).
So for now, we wait. The Eagles PR staff is here, ready in case a deal comes through. ESPN and Sports Illustrated are here. A fleet of satellite trucks are here. Another reporter I worked for as an intern when I was in college in here. The question is, will a deal arrive here? We’re watching, and waiting.
(OK – the owners want a union because when employers work with a union they gain certain anti-trust protections. Can you tell we’ve been at this too long?)