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Off To Atlanta With High Hopes

There is the sense of the Great Crossing Over as the NFL prepares to throw open its doors and welcome in the business of the season ahead. I say that with the presumption that the players will OK the draft presented to them throughout the day on Wednesday and that the Owners will quickly OK the terms of a Collective Bargaining Agreement that will bring labor peace to the NFL for the next 10 years.

And all it will have cost us is four-plus months of hand-wringing, collar choking and flat-out fear that some of our precious 2011 season would be compromised. Unless there is an upset at the last minute, all of that will be averted, and we can get on to the year in front of us.

Inside an NFL organization, as I am, the mood has been what you would expect in these last 127 days. Ups, downs. Hopes, concerns. The front office kept everyone updated as much as possible with regards to the labor situation. I felt I had a good handle on it from the start after team president Joe Banner explained how he anticipated the first few court decisions would be rendered. He was right on the mark all the way.

There have been times that the feeling here was one of absolute concern. Would the two sides ever get close enough to an agreement to foster the feeling of true hope? Was there a true possibility that the season would be truncated? ESPN's Ron Jaworski spoke in grave tones early in the process, thinking that the work stoppage would run into the season and that many as six regular-season games could be lost.

Fortunately, we are not going to reach that point. The deal is on the fast track to completion and approval and then ... what's ... next?

I know the plan is in place here. The Eagles have many scenarios they are considering about whom to acquire and how to acquire them. They obviously have the huge Kevin Kolb decision to make and offers to field. They have a roster that needs to sign non-drafted rookies and drafted rookies. If the rosters increase for training camp from 80 to 90 players, well, that's even more work to do.

In other words, after running in place these last four months, the football side of the building will compress all of that work into the span of, oh, about one week.

First, though, there is the matter of crossing the T's and dotting the I's. I'll be in Atlanta late tonight chasing down the very latest for you and I will blog about it here all day on Thursday. The meeting begins at 10 in Atlanta. It could last 10 minutes. It could last a couple of hours. It could last all day and all night as the Owners discuss the draft in front of them and go back and forth on the merits of the deal.

But it's going to get done. I am convinced of that. To go this far and to drag the public through so much only to pull away now would be unjust.

Anyway, there is a palpable burst of energy at the NovaCare Complex. Everyone knows how hectic it's going to be when the deal is approved and the NFL officially opens for business and free agency begins and training camps around the league start.

We're ready. Been ready for months. The time is nearly here and the feeling of "what's next?" has never been more looming. 

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