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Lurie: Big Things Ahead

The work stoppage that has us all bummed out right now is going to get settled, as Lurie expressed with hope and confidence, "sooner rather than later." There is going to be an NFL season in 2011. And when the season rolls around, Lurie said, the Eagles are going to be on the come.

"We're ready to roll when there's a new league year. We're all very excited about both the opportunities for free agency and whatever other opportunities exist. We've been ready to roll for awhile," he said. "We've got a great plan in place and you never know what you can accomplish, but we're going to be both aggressive and hopefully make the right decisions.

Wednesday was the team's annual Playground Build, this time at the Moffet Elementary School in the Kensington part of Philadelphia. A couple of hundred Eagles employees -- including all of the coaches and the personnel people and everyone in football operations, but no players (although they were permitted to attend given the charity nature of the event) -- descended upon the drab surroundings and energized the area with gusto. A garden was planted, a playground was build, a Field Turf playing field was installed, murals were painted, mosaics were designed and the hallways of the school were given a landscape of color and life.

Lurie did his part, providing some paint on the outside walls of the school before he was surrounded by cameras and reporters and asked, first and foremost, if it felt strange to have the event without the players present.

"I guess it's a little odd, but this has always been about the kids and what we are building for them," said Lurie. "It has never been about the players. They've been a great part of what we've done, but it's about our organization doing something for kids who are going to come to school tomorrow and have a wonderful playground. That's really what it's all about."

Next it was on to the issue at hand: The labor situation and his anxiety for having a work stoppage hanging over what would have been a vibrant offseason around the league.

"I think we are all in the same boat. We want to see it resolved as quickly as possible, get it out of the courts, get the negotiations really rolling. We're no different than anybody else. We just want football. We're in this to play football ... There is too much rhetoric. I just want this to get settled and settled on the terms that it's a great partnership and it's fair," said Lurie.

"That's what is going to happen. I'm not worried."

Well, his enthusiasm for optimism was encouraging to hear, for sure. For months and months we have been beaten down by the doom-and-gloom reality of an offseason without free agency and player movement, and by the possibility of perhaps no season ahead. To hear Lurie so forthright with his confidence that a deal will get done was, honestly, the best tonic for everyone in this second week of June.

Lurie was understandably excited that both the owners and the players are having conversations, but he wasn't able to shed any light on the current talks or provide any timetable for what might happen in the coming days and weeks.

All Lurie knows is that he is a huge football fan who happens to own the Philadelphia Eagles, and he has a complete understanding of how the fans feel.

"I think of it every day," said Lurie. "It's frustrating for a fan because you've got a very successful sport, you've got teams that are doing well and you've got players that are doing well and you just want them to get it together, talk and get this over with. It's a very popular sport and it needs to be played and I'm confident an agreement will happen."

Of course, Lurie was asked the question -- several of them, actually -- about the rumor du jour, the one about wide receiver Plaxico Burress and the chances of him becoming an Eagle. Lurie said the Eagles aren't adverse to signing a player who has spent the last two years in jail -- ''I think we've shown that we will take chances, if it is warranted" -- but that there is only so much due diligence that can be done without the ability to approach Burress and sit him down and talk to him face to face to hear what he wants and find out where his head and heart are at right now.

There really is no answer for that one, because the Eagles aren't permitted to make personnel moves right now. In fact, said Lurie, the waiting through the work stoppage has forced the team to use some internal restraint before they are able to execute the rest of their offseason plan. Lurie thinks Philadelphia is a prime destination for players around the league. He thinks they want to come here to play football.

"There are so many players around the league that want to play for us," said Lurie. "They want to play with Michael Vick, they want to play for Andy Reid, there's stability, a chance to win championships and an opportunity to know that you will be in the big national spotlight almost every game. We go through that. We know and hear that a lot of players want to play for us. It's more about evaluating them and seeing if they will be a good fit.

"It's frustrating to be a team that is poised to make some of the moves we want to make and not be able to make them. I think we'll be very excited when the league year starts."

Until then, we all have to wait and remain patient and confident that smart, collective thinking will provide a new deal for 2011 and beyond. Days like the one on Wednesday were gratifying for everyone. The Eagles once again went into a neighborhood in need and made a huge difference. Eagles Youth Partnership does it every day of the year, and to have all of the media coverage spotlighting that part of the organization was a terrific lift for everyone.

Hearing Lurie speak with so much promise helped, too. Maybe he's right and a new collective bargaining agreement will be in place before too long. And then we'll see what kind of plan the Eagles have for going from a playoff team to a Super Bowl team with a window wide open for another sustained period of excellence that we've grown used to enjoying.

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