Blank, NFL Owners Start Talks In Atlanta

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ATLANTA,None - NFL owners arrived at the Marriott hotel near Hartsfield-Jackson airport on Thursday to discuss -- and possibly vote on -- a deal to end the lockout that began in March.

Falcons Owner Blank Optimistic About Lockout Talks

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank told Channel 2’s Zach Klein he hoped for a vote very soon.

"I'm optimistic that we'll get approval," Blank said. "My understanding is that the owners will have the opportunity to ratify the agreement today, even if the players do not approve it today."

Commissioner Roger Goodell was at Thursday's session. The league has said it hopes to have a final agreement with players ready for ratification Thursday. At least 24 of 32 owners would need to OK the deal. If it's passed by both sides, team executives would be schooled later Thursday and Friday in Atlanta on the deal's guidelines and how to apply them; topics would include the 2011 NFL calendar, rookie salary system and new free agency rules.

Players had been expected to vote Wednesday on a full proposal to settle the labor dispute, but they did not.

Even after all acceptable terms are established, a deal would lead to a collective bargaining agreement only if NFL Players Association team reps recommend re-establishing the group as a union, which must be approved by a majority vote of the 1,900 players. Those votes probably would be done by conference call.

RAW:Arthur Blank Talks At NFL Owners Meetings

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Remaining issues are believed to include how to set aside three pending court cases: The players' antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in federal court in Minnesota; the TV networks case, in which players accused owners of setting up $4 billion in "lockout insurance," money that the league would receive even if there were no games played in 2011; and a collusion case, in which players said owners conspired to restrict salaries last offseason.

Ten players -- including quarterbacks Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson and Patriots guard Logan Mankins -- filed their antitrust suit March 11. That was the day the country's most popular sports league was thrown into limbo, and the owners locked out players hours later. Also under discussion are how workman's compensation claims will be resolved and the players' demand that the NFL turn over $320 million in unpaid benefits from the 2010 season. Because there was no salary cap that season, the old CBA said NFL teams were not required to pay those benefits.

If the four-month lockout -- the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 -- is going to end in time to keep the preseason completely intact, the players and owners almost certainly must ratify the deal this week. The St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears are scheduled to open the preseason Aug. 7 in the Hall of Fame game.


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