NFL executives convened at the owner’s meetings in Chicago on Tuesday, mostly gathering information regarding exactly where things stand with the collective bargaining agreement talks.
The mood and vibe was described as positive, leading to the ever-growing speculation that a deal could be reached between the owners and players some time within the next few weeks to end the 98-day-old lockout.
But NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cautioned there's still a ways to go.
"We have a lot of work to do and we’ve got to do it right," Goodell told reporters after roughly five hours of meetings. "The agreement that we are focusing on and negotiating has got to address several issues. Those issues are complex, and it needs to be done in a way that's fair to the players, fair to the clubs, and most importantly allows us to continue to have that full 2011 season."
"That's what we want, that’s what the fans want. They want football, and that's our job to try to make that happen."
Some details of the latest proposal, which Goodell unveiled to those executives attending Tuesday's session in Rosemont, Ill., have trickled out.
A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the players’ share would be somewhere near the 50 percent the NFLPA previously stated it has received over the past 10 years.
ESPN, citing sources, reported that in the proposed agreement, the players would pocket 48 percent of all total revenue. That, the report said, would even include the more than $1 billion credit off the top of the total pie the owners were initially requesting, something the players were balking at during previous negotiating sessions.
The report also said players with four or more years of NFL experience whose contracts have expired will be unrestricted free agents, allowing them to sign with any team. Additionally, the owners’ proposal included a rookie wage scale -- details of which are still being tweaked -- as well as a new 16-game Thursday night television package, which could be sold to the highest bidder to help pull in more revenue.
Originally, Tuesday’s session was billed as the first of possibly two consecutive days of discussions among the owners. Last week, the league suggested the owners pack an overnight bag and clear their schedules for an extra day, creating a belief among some that there might have been a possible vote this week that would’ve halted the NFL’s longest work stoppage.
However, the owners apparently are not going to meet again Wednesday in Chicago, leaving the resumption of CBA talks as the next step. Representatives from both sides are expected to continue their CBA discussions on Wednesday, reportedly in Boston. Goodell, though, wouldn't confirm that.
"We’ve done a very good job of keeping our meetings focused on the issues, and not any distractions," Goodell said. "So we are going to try to do it in a confidential way."
Ever since word initially leaked about the secret meetings between Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith that began three weeks ago, there’s been a growing sense of optimism that apparently wasn’t dampened Tuesday.
Still, with July right around the corner and the first training camps scheduled to get underway in a little more than four weeks, the two sides will need to strike a deal relatively soon for the preseason -- and regular season for that matter -- to not be affected.
“This is the season to get something done, this is the time to get something done," Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters before heading into the session. "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.”
Goodell said: "Obviously, time is moving quickly and we are fast approaching our training camp period. I think there is an urgency for everybody to get this deal done."