We spoke briefly after the Owners approved terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in Atlanta. Banner, like all of us, was watching intently as the players were brought up to speed on the pact and were reviewing the contents within. For Banner, the Eagles President who was introduced to the talks long before the four-plus-month work stoppage began, the process was unlike anything he had experienced in his professional career.
"It was interesting, challenging and frustrating at various times," he said. "The process was an extraordinary one. To come out of it with a 10-year deal, and with as little disruption to the 2011 season as we had for the fans and for the teams, is what we were all hoping to achieve. I'm thrilled. This was everybody's goal. Now we can get back to football. This is great for the game.
"There are pieces of the deal that are good for the Owners and pieces that aren't quite as good, and that's the same way as it is for the players. It is the mark of a good contract that works for everyone. All of the work everyone put in produced good results."
Certainly, what's ahead for Banner and the NFL's front offices when the league year opens -- as I write this, the players have yet to vote on the CBA -- is enormous. Banner and another three members of the front office -- Howie Roseman, the team's general manager, Aileen Daly, the team's general counsel, Derron Harris, manager of football administration -- will stay behind and learn about the complicated new league contract. It is going to be a foreign language, to an extent.
And it is going to challenge every NFL team.
"That's part of the fun, the challenge," said Banner. "We're going to get all the details and then absorb them and integrate them into our plans. We will move forward knowing that we have a lot to learn every day."
The Eagles spent the last four-plus months preparing for the moment when the league year opens. That isn't quite here, but you know it's around the corner. That's what everyone believes, unless something blows up between now and the finish line. When the league says "Go" the Eagles will be ready. They have many models, many scenarios, to consider.
"It's a time-consuming process even in a normal offseason," said Banner. "We have reviewed our roster and the league thoroughly and we're excited about what is ahead. We think we have a good plan in place. I think that one thing you understand in this business is that rarely does a plan completely fall into place. You have to be flexibile. You have to be ready for anything to happen. We think we are."
Banner received a lot of fan feedback over the months, and not all of it was good. The fans expressed themselves loudly and he listened. He felt the same as they did -- frustrated at waiting, anxious to get the season rolling.
In the end, Banner and the Eagles are thrilled at the fans' responses. Loud, proud and very opinionated.
"The fans have been tremendously passionate about the Eagles since Day One when Jeffrey (Lurie) and I arrived, and that hasn't changed," said Banner. "They are lovers of the Eagles and of the game of football. We share their feelings and I am thrilled that we have gotten to this point without too much of a disruption to the preseason, to the game of football.
"I know it isn't done yet from an overall standpoint. But to get here is a good feeling. We'll see how the rest goes and approach it with an optimistic outlook."