Philadelphia Eagles News

A Wild 24 Hours In Atlanta!

7:30 p.m., July 21

Jeffrey Lurie after the Owners voted 31-0 (the Raiders abstained) in favor of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement: "Let's play some football. I can't wait. We went through months and months trying to work something out and I'm happy it's a 10-year arrangement. ... You want to try to arrive at something that is fair to everybody, and I think we've done that. I think it's a great agreement.

"I'm just so pleased with the outcome after a long, long offseason. It's what we want, and that is to get back to the game we all love so much.

"I'm excited for the fans who have been patient and who have waited. Soon, we're going to have free agency and training camp. We are ready to go. We have a plan in place. We have prepared a long time for this."

6:59 p.m., July 21

NFL Network's Albert Breer reports that the Owners have passed the resolution to approve a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and that he could hear the loud cheers from inside the ballroom at the Marriott Hotel here near the Atlanta airport.

Great news! Expected. I'll be back shortly. Heading to get some interviews.

6:50 p.m., July 21

The stage appears set for an agreement tonight. As I'm sitting here eating -- again -- club sandwich and a salad, NFL Network reports progress being made as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith talk extensively.

The Owners have just gone in to vote on the deal. The vote may not take very long at all. There seems to be more optimism now than at any time during this very, very long day.

I can tell you that my expectations at the beginning of the day were that the deal would be in place today. Now, after Goodell and Smith spent 90 minutes negotiating, the Owners are in the room with a resolution to vote.

After that, the players could vote, and one report indicates that the players will vote at 8 p.m.

6:06 p.m., July 21

Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti left the meeting early -- as he said was his intention all along -- without casting a vote. The vote has not yet taken place. Bisciotti was coy when asked about the tone of the meetings throughout the day.

"No comment, guys," said Bisciotti. "No comment."

So he wasn't talking, adding to the level of frustration from a huge media contingent that has spent the day chasing down a whole lot of nothing.

To reiterate, the vote from the Owners has not taken place yet. Still waiting.

5:24 p.m., July 21

The Owners are expected to vote soon, and then they will break up and I will have a chance to interview Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner, the Eagles' representatives in the talks. Expect the Owners to ratify the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will then put the ball squarely in the players' court.

Next step? We are at the mercy of the players. They have the power, by ratifying the pact, of ending the work stoppage and getting the 2011 season off and running.

5:01 p.m., July 21

Seems to be a buzz picking up, and I don't know why. I see a reporter running outside with his phone pressed to his ear. I see a couple more scurry elsewhere. I think the expectation is that the Owners are going to vote by 5:30 and meet the gaggle of reporters here.

Maybe the group is about to break up now. Let me go take a walk ...

4:01 p.m., July 21

Is it possible, as one media member suggested to me, that DeMaurice Smith forgot to put in place a mechanism by which the players could vote on the new CBA and recertify the union? That is the buzz here, that Smith simply blew it in his timeline to get the new deal done.

If true, it is appalling that all of this time spent negotiating and planning would not include a method to get the players to vote on restoring the union.

This is another twist in a long, long day. My flight was originally scheduled to leave Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. We're in the process of changing that (thanks, Liz!) and making sure we are here to find out the latest from the Owners.

The players, it seems, have a lot of work to do internally.

3:39 p.m., July 21

There are Owners milling about -- I swear, Colts Owner Jim Irsay spends much of his time walking through the media, chatting -- and seemingly not in any kind of a hurry to do much of anything. I believe this: There is no way the Owners are going to push off a vote until another day. They want to get on with their lives. They are going to vote on the new CBA and they are going to approve it tonight and then get out of Atlanta and go back to whatever exotic locales from which they came. If I'm a billionaire, I'm not pushing this off any longer than I must.

Then it will be up to the players. Do they care what the fans think about them? Do they want to get a deal done and done now? Do they want to go to training camp?

Eagles note: I just ran into former Eagles quarterback David Archer (1991, 1992), who is now a radio hotshot here in Atlanta. Nice guy.

2:52 p.m., July 21

I'm watching NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith hold a press conference. He is talking about how difficult it is for the union to re-certify and I think the man comes off as extremely pompous, arrogant, defiant. He is stalling. The players, right here, are to blame for all of the angst and anger we are feeling right now.

Smith didn't take any questions. He didn't do much of anything except come off as someone who thinks he knows more than anyone else.

So, no news from the players. The Owners are still expected to vote. When, I don't know. Someone just walked up to me and said, "We've got a long night in front of us."

2:07 p.m., July 21

I've talked to four or five national media types here and all of them have named cornerback as the primary need for the Eagles to add. And all of them think this team is very, very close to being a Super Bowl team. Nothing groundbreaking there. The point is that the national media here all agree that the Eagles have a good thing going and that if they make a few of the right move in free agency, they can win the Super Bowl.

It's nice going into a season with high hopes. That is the way it has been for nearly every one of Andy Reid's seasons here. He has built a team that is good and that is going to be good for years to come. I still say the Eagles need two or three starters to add to the defense. They stand to lose a lot with their own free-agents-to-be potentially moving on.

1:38 p.m., July 21

Apparently there has been some question about defensive end Victor Abiamiri and his contract status for 2011. He is not slated to be an unrestricted free agent, as general manager Howie Roseman explained a moment ago. Because Abiamiri was on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the entire season, he did not use a year of his contract. In effect, his contract was frozen. So he still has one more year left on his contract.

Now, how Abiamiri fits in remains to be seen. The Eagles have a slew of young ends -- Ricky Sapp, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Phillip Hunt and a rehabbing Brandon Graham, to name a handful -- and they are excited to see those players mature. Can Abiamiri make this team?

Back to the labor talks ... Colts Owner Jim Irsay emerged from the talks and was engulfed by the media. He walked and talked, basically saying the Owners are still working and hammering away at things. The expectation remains that the Owners will vote today on a new CBA.

1:12 p.m., July 21

I am so done with this. On my third Pepsi. Sitting at a table as the energy level around here dips. The word is that the Owners will vote today between 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Who really knows? All I want to do is talk football, breathe football and live football. I'm certainly glad I haven't been chained to the CBA negotiations for four months like so many of the reporters here.

The idea of being a member of the media is glamorous and it works for a lot of guys. It's a great job, particularly when you reach this level. But a lot of the gig is sitting around and waiting and hoping to hear some piece of news. Reporters who have worked for 30 years are walking in circles, playing with their phones, b.s.ing a lot of Tweets and generally trying to stay busy and alert.

I'm going to take the optimistic view here and believe that the deal is going to get done today and that, in the course of the next week, free agency will begin. That's when NFL front offices will be tested like they have never before been tested.

12:17 p.m., July 21

And now, a dose of downer.

"It's not looking good," says ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, walking over to me. "Kessler (Jeffrey, players attorney) is holding everything up."

I had just listened in on Sal Pal's interview with ESPN's John Clayton, and, indeed, the report was sobering. I'm not about to go run into the middle of the street, but it is sobering. And it is typical of the way things have been these last few months: Up, down, all around.

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Clark Judge from Sportsline.com compared the negotiations earlier to buying a house.

"I remember I wanted to settle on a house years ago and I wanted the previous owner to fix something and we went back and forth before he fixed it," said Judge. "That what this is like."

Ever buy a car? Same thing here. As a buyer, I haggle until the last instant until I am satisfied that I have gotten all that I want. And then I do the deal.

Same thing here. A deal will be done. When, though?

11:22 a.m., July 21

Gary Myers from the New York Daily News stopped by to chat football. What a relief!! He thinks Plaxico Burress would be a good fit with the Eagles. Myers, in fact, was the reporter who broke the possibility of the story back in the spring.

"He would help that offense a lot," said Myers. "I hope it happens for the Eagles. It's a good match. Plaxico is incredibly motivated."

We're at the point now in the day when the excitement has dulled. The media members are milling around killing time, basically. Everyone is bracing for the long wait.

I've just enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and some sourdough toast and a Pepsi. The young lady at the hotel here is a doll and is making us feel so comfortable. Derek, Sam and I are at a table in the lobby, chowing, talking, people watching .. I'm still having a really good time. Ask me if I'm still having fun at 4 p.m. ...

10:44 a.m., July 21

Having a good chat with Sportsline.com's Clark Judge, one of the great guys in the business who really knows the league. He calls what is happening "last-minute drama" with the way players Logan Mankins and Vincent Jackson are apparently holding things up as they are reportedly interested in being compensated separately from the CBA.

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"I think this is a test of DeMaurice Smith's leadership," said Judge. "He has to rein this in and think of the collective approach from the players. I think it gets done today, but I was more certain of it yesterday."

Ups and downs, right?

On a related note, there is a report out there that the Eagles "don't have enough time" to have training camp at Lehigh University. That is total nonsense. The hope is that the CBA is resolved and the team can go to Lehigh. Andy Reid wants to get his players away. When, how, the details ... I don't have them yet.

10:22 a.m., July 21

The word from inside the Owners room -- I get a snippet every now and then -- is that it's going to be a long day ahead and that a vote is expected. Not sure what the reports out there are saying as I am sitting in a hotel lobby on a laptop alternately blogging, Tweeting and interviewing media folks for content on our Eagles Live! shows that are ahead.

Colts Owner Jim Irsay spoke to the media a moment -- he is late to the meeting, I guess, and not very concerned about it -- and here is what he said: "I believe we will (vote). That's the anticipation ... we want to proceed and get this thing done."

So there you go. I wish you were here. When a team executive walks into the hotel, he is immediately surrounded by cameras. The media are permitted in a hallway, in the lobby and in an interview room that has been set up. It's a good situation. The league is handling this very well. It's a first-class operation.

Beyond the media's limits, the Owners have their reception room and then, of course, the ballroom in which they are meeting. I don't go back there. The doors are closed to me.

9:53 a.m., July 21

Quite a wild scene at the Owners hotel. A media area has been set up in the hotel lobby and there are hundreds -- maybe closer to 100 -- of cameras and reporters and even a live Atlanta radio show. Sal Paolantonio from ESPN thinks this is the final day, that the lockout ends today. "This is it, David," he said as we saw each other. See, Sal and I play tennis a lot (he wins too much of the time) and we're friends.

Anyway, the heavy hitters are here. Peter King from Sports Illustrated and Clark Judge from CBSSportsline.com and John Clayton from ESPN and writers like Bob Glauber (New York Newsday) and Alex Marvez (Fox Sports) are here, to name a few.

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Falcons owner Arthur Blank just passed by and spoke optimistically of the day ahead.

"We have a lot of work to do, but we're here for a purpose," he said.

Get it done, guys. Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner were early arrivers here and have taken their place inside the meetings. It is quite a spectacle, quite a zoo and definitely the place to be to get the very latest.

8:47 a.m, July 21

Good workout. Thirty-five minutes on the bike and a quick stretch and here I am, ready to go over to the Owners' hotel to get my credentials. After that? I have a James Patterson book, I have my Kindle, I have an Esquire magazine. I'm set. And if I get really bored I have a bathing suit and I'll go get a dip in the pool. No pictures, please.

Here we go ... Is this the last day of the lockout? I sure as heck hope so.

7:58 a.m., July 21

It's a beautiful, hot day here in Atlanta and I'm ready to go after a fairly lousy night's sleep. I have the feeling that today is going to be a long, drawn-out drama, so I'm prepared to hunker down and stay patient. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the Owners, who are coming from all corners of the world, will go in and out of their meeting very quickly and head back to their luxury destinations. I don't know.

I know that there are going to be a lot of ups and downs. That's the way it has gone for these 128 days of the work stoppage. It hasn't been easy for anyone. Is today the end of the lockout? Keep your fingers crossed.

I am going to get in a quick workout -- that pepperoni pizza is not treating me right -- and then head over to the Owners hotel. Good luck to everyone! Let's hope we have football to talk about from the end of this day moving forward. A substantial delay in completing the CBA would be devastating.

1:13 a.m., July 21

A pepperoni pizza at 1 a.m. is not going to help my girlish figure or my stomach acid-count or my nerves. But it was darn good room service in a pinch. And quite a way to cap a long day that began in the Fox 29 studios in Philadelphia at 7:45 a.m. talking about what is going to happen after the lockout is over.

After? Sometimes it seems so long away, doesn't it?

I plan to interview a bunch of media types during the day on Thursday as we wait for the Owners to vote. And I'm going to ask them about all of the rumors we hear -- will the Eagles trade quarterback Kevin Kolb? What is a fair price for him? Is Plaxico Burress a good fit as an Eagle?, etc -- every day as we itch for football, circa 2011.

We pick up credentials at 9 a.m. and the meeting starts an hour later. I will try to get into the room with the Owners, I promise. Don't expect miracles.

Once the Owners are finished, team executives will meet to discuss the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. General Manager Howie Roseman will lead the Eagles' contingent in those discussions.

My hope is that I can make my 7:35 p.m. flight out of Atlanta on Thursday. Wish me luck. Could be a long, long day, once again.

12:51 a.m., July 21

It's very difficult, I admit, to constantly read reports -- on TV, on the Internet, via Tweets -- about what is going on. There have been so many ups and downs. I guess I would say in the very brief visit to the hotel bar that the few people to whom I spoke feel optimistic about finishing up the CBA quickly. Then again, the truth is that those people are like me and you: We know what we read and what we hear. We aren't in the negotiations.

The Owners' meeting is in another hotel, and I will be there covering it all. I expect to sit around and wait. I don't know if the meeting will last 10 minutes or 10 hours. I don't know when the players are going to vote. I know that I'm done with the roller coaster. I'm taking the optimistic spin here.

Anyway, I had a soda at the bar and watched, this late at night, the Real Madrid-Chivas soccer game from San Diego on television. Remarkable. Real Madrid is an incredible team and Cristiano Ronaldo is an amazing player, showman and athlete. He scored three goals in lightning-quick fashion and was spectacular and riveting in the 15 minutes I watched. Real Madrid and Ronaldo play Linoln Financial Field on Saturday night. You have to be there if you appreciate the best of the best in the world.

Back to American football .... time to take a soda upstairs, order a pizza and get down to some quick work before I retire for the night.

12:26 a.m., July 21

The road to Atlanta was not an easy one. Weather delays kept us in Philadelphia two hours beyond our schedule departure time, and during those hours I had to deal with a false Tweet from WIP's Howard Eskin, who said that head coach Andy Reid had scheduled a players and coaches meeting for Saturday. Not true. It is for coaches only, and it is an annual pre-training camp meeting.

False report. False alarm.

But what's interesting is how the media react to any reports. I'm traveling with media relations director Derek Boyko and multimedia content producer Sam Hallowell, and Boyko's phone blew up within seconds of the Tweet. It never seems to matter if the reports are true. Reporters have to react to everything. And here is how it works: Boyko gets in touch with Reid, who sets the record straight. Boyko tells me to Tweet out the official information on @EaglesInsider, and everything calms down.

So much for that. I'm going to head downstairs at the hotel and see what is going. This is where many team front-office members are staying -- general managers, salary-cap experts and legal departments. I will check back soon ...

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