LIVE from NFL meetings: Arthur Blank expects deal today

Here's Blank doing a mass interview in the hotel lobby before veering off for a private audience with the AJC. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Here's Falcons owner Arthur Blank doing a mass interview in the hotel lobby before veering off for a private audience with the AJC. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 10:15 p.m.)

Welcome to the double-secret location (Airport Gateway Marriott, 2020 Convention Center Concourse, Atlanta, Ga., 30337, where the codeword “media” gets you free wifi) for these high-level NFL meetings.

I’m hunkered down in the work room, where there is coffee and muffins. If you stop by and say hello, I’ll try to sneak you one.

Here’s the important update: Darryl Ledbetter and I just spoke with Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who said he expects these months of absurdity to end today — my words, not his — and a deal to get finalized.

When I asked Blank, just before he walked into the 10 a.m. owners meeting, if he expected a deal for a CBA to be completed, he said, “Yes, I think so. I’d be disappointed, like 330 million people in America, if we didn’t get it done today. There’s been wonderful communication between the labor committee, eight owners, the commissioner, the league staff, counsel and everybody in that room, so there won’t be any surprises from a league perspective. And hopefully the players have gotten through their issues last night and we’ll be in position to do their ratification this morning or today. I don’t know what the timing of that is. I do know the same things you all have read, and that’s what our general counsel has said: The owners can ratify the deal first if necessary and have the players approve it. It’s not what we expected, but if that’s the process, that’s the process.”

This is just another one of those NFL meetings that I can't get into.

This is just another one of those NFL meetings that I can't get into.

Free at last, from this silliness. Almost.

Here’s a link to D-Led’s blog.

For the past couple of weeks, there has been an expectation that the league’s owners and players finally would figure out how to divide $9.3 billion, a problem we certainly can all relate to, at this Atlanta meeting.

This probably should’ve happened months ago, before the NFL damaged the draft, postponed free agency and threatened the season. But then, that just wouldn’t be good business.

I’ll make this as brief as possible, at this risk of you X’ing out the page. The players passed on anticipated vote on a new CBA in Washington on Wednesday. But the two sides were expected to work through the evening in hopes of being able to ratify a 10-year deal today.

Here’s what I expect: Even if every bullet point isn’t finalized today, a deal will be reached in principle, allowing teams to prepare for roster moves and free agency. Then we can put these several months of absurdity behind us.

The owners are in their meeting now and it figures to go until at least early afternoon. D-Led and I will have more updates later.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

71 comments Add your comment

Outside Observer

July 21st, 2011
9:32 am

The sooner a deal is done, the sooner we can relax and get ready for some good football in the fall. Won’t be done today, but hopefully by early next week. Do you have any particularly good fantasy names for this season Shultz?

blazerdawg

July 21st, 2011
9:39 am

Try to check-in under the name A. Blank – they probably reserved him a Concierge room and he must be communitng for this meeting.

blazerdawg

July 21st, 2011
9:42 am

The Washington budget deal is about done, and the Happy Days cast/CBS suit is settled, so I am feeling optimistic about today…spirit of compromise is in the air.

Rimfire

July 21st, 2011
9:45 am

Keep us posted…

blazerdawg

July 21st, 2011
9:46 am

Correction…Happy Days suit is not settled – darn that Potsy.

A Conservative Voice

July 21st, 2011
9:48 am

@Jeff – Time to end this absurdity

WHY?……it’s time to bust this union……just tell the players they’re all fired and the NFL Owners will no longer be a part of any union activities. Some times you just have to suck it up. Let’s see how many of the players will want to lose a year’s pay, or end their future……..they’ll be coming back in droves……just watch ‘em.

Reid Adair

July 21st, 2011
9:55 am

I think it’s done today – as long as Drew Brees decides to drop his selfish demand for free agency after 2011.

All these folks who feared for missed games or, even worse, no 2011 season were misled. There was no way the players or the owners were ever going to miss games. There’s too much money involved.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been on the side of the players through this. It’s time for everyone to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

T3

July 21st, 2011
9:55 am

Shoot.

I saw the headline ‘Time to end this absurdity”
and I thought it meant the AJC was going out of business.

Just have to keep on hoping.

Sleeze

July 21st, 2011
10:07 am

Should it end today? Absolutely yes!! WILL it end today? I’ll beleive it when I see it.

Sleeze

July 21st, 2011
10:09 am

To my man “Shoot”, that was a great call. Of course, I would settle for just ending the AJC’s sports columnists tenure.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 21st, 2011
10:10 am

end the bleeding!!! i need to know what strategy I need to use for my upcoming fantasy draft. it’ll be a free-agent signing frenzy!!!

drmaryb .(*_*).

July 21st, 2011
10:15 am

The wait is absolutely KILLING me!! I NEED my football, and the ladies are getting RESTLESS!!!

Joe Tess Fish House

July 21st, 2011
10:33 am

I say screw the palyers. There spoilt crybabys lookng 4 more money that dont deserve it. let them stay on strike who needs the NFL?

Ralph

July 21st, 2011
10:33 am

Both sides waited until the last minute to bargain – just like almost every negotiation whether it is corporate or political. If there was no last minute, nothing would ever get done.

Are you putting this on both players and owners when you say “This probably should’ve happened months ago, before the NFL damaged the draft, postponed free agency and threatened the season.”??

Deal me in

July 21st, 2011
10:35 am

Once a “deal” is signed, look for the billionaire owners to jack up prices big time on everything to pay for any new money paid out. It’s why they stay rich—they know the chumps coming to the games will pay whatever they are ordered to pay.

Hillbilly D

July 21st, 2011
10:36 am

I’d be disappointed, like 330 million people in America

Make that 329,999,999, Arthur, cause I don’t care.

Sonny Clusters

July 21st, 2011
10:36 am

Is Mr. Blank looking sharp today? Can anybody else in the owners group hang with him fashion-wise? He’s come so far from the orange apron.

1stLadyBirdC

July 21st, 2011
10:39 am

I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOO READY FOR SOME ‘FOOTBALL’ :)

Sonny Clusters

July 21st, 2011
10:40 am

Being that the meetings are being held in Atlanta . . . are they playing real loud rap music like they do at the Dome? Have to set the tone for the meetings.

Joe Tess Fish House

July 21st, 2011
10:40 am

Hey Shultzie. If U see Ledbeter ask him why he wont let me post on his blog

ToccoaBird

July 21st, 2011
10:41 am

Sonny , we was thinking maybe Jerry Jones could hang with Mr. Blank until he turned around and we saw his face.

PMC

July 21st, 2011
10:44 am

Darryl Orlando sounds like a pretty cool name for a reporter or weatherman.

PMC

July 21st, 2011
10:45 am

Like we said in January, this will get done, because these guys all like money. If there were a real problem with the money they would be locked out for a long time like the NBA will be. This was never going to go farther than a week into the regular season.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2011
10:46 am

A conservative voice — You have the correct screen name, given your anti-labor comment.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2011
10:47 am

T3 — Table 3 is asking for water.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2011
10:48 am

Sonny Clusters — There’s a lot of money and a lot of really nice suits in that room. But none can hang with Clusters. When’s the Clusters Collection coming out?

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2011
10:49 am

Joe Tess Fish House — Mr. Ledbetter’s secretary told me that Mr. Ledbetter is declining comment on your question.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2011
10:50 am

1stLadyBirdC — As are we all.

1oldefalconfan

July 21st, 2011
10:50 am

Jeff
We need to get this over with
I am waiting to dump Dish network, so I can switch over to Direct tv and get the NFL package for free!
I am holding off until I am 100% sure there is a season..lol

Joe Tess Fish House

July 21st, 2011
10:51 am

I dont get it I never made fun of his bow tie. I just tell the truth that the Flacons have done some dumm thinks in the past on draft day.

Sonny Clusters

July 21st, 2011
10:52 am

We was remembering that photo the AJC ran of Arthur Blank on a horse and that was about as funny a photo as we can remember. Maybe Jeff could find it for us and show everybody. Maybe Arthur will ride his horse to a game next season.

Joe Tess Fish House

July 21st, 2011
10:56 am

At least tell us this what is on the bufet 4 lunch?

Ralph

July 21st, 2011
10:58 am

Jeff Schultz, since you ignored my question about whether your NFL comment applied to both players and owners, and you call somebody else anti-labor – I assume you are on the players side.

Sonny Clusters

July 21st, 2011
10:59 am

Mostly on second shift we are casual. We dress up for Turner Field and Dairy Queen. We also lean to orange shirts and caps because of Parkview and Clemson (almost). Clusters could always turn heads when we enter a room full of girls. It’s the Clusters Curse.

T3

July 21st, 2011
11:01 am

Schultz:

You certaily have more experience “carrying the water.”

Why dont can carry the water…after you finish the fries.

Tom

July 21st, 2011
11:06 am

What is a Joe Tess Fish House??

Parade of Knuckleheads

July 21st, 2011
11:07 am

. . . . . Wonderful Communication ?

KnightInATL

July 21st, 2011
11:08 am

“Free at last, from this silliness. Almost.

Here’s a link to D-Led’s blog.”

That was a low blow, Schultz. But funny, nonetheless.

PMC

July 21st, 2011
11:12 am

So close to the NFL Red Zone channels greatness again.

Smokey

July 21st, 2011
11:14 am

Schultz, you just earned bonus points for that T3 retort. I think you rustled his feathers a little. Seems he lost his ability to complete a grammatically correct sentence.

Parade of Knuckleheads

July 21st, 2011
11:20 am

The SEC Media Days is much better than this NFL Special League Meeting #2.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2011
11:41 am

Ralph — Sorry, I missed your question earlier. But yes, I have been on the players’ side more in these particularly talks because the players haven’t asked for anything, owners just want money back, and it’s largely because they can’t get local governments to pay for their stadiums and stadium upgrades any more.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2011
11:42 am

T3 — I like fries.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2011
11:43 am

KnightInATL — That wasn’t the intent, obviously. Stop trying to stir up trouble between me and D-Led.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2011
11:44 am

Smokey — I’m all about the love.

KnightInATL

July 21st, 2011
11:45 am

I know, JS. Just found it ironic that the link to his blog was placed after that sentence.

JASon

July 21st, 2011
11:57 am

“the league’s owners and players finally would figure out how to divide $9.3 billion”

I still find it funny that all of a sudden the owners thought they deserved 1 billion more than previous. That is the root of this entire lockout. And no one should blame the players for saying hey wait a second.

Sonny Clusters

July 21st, 2011
12:01 pm

Jeff, if you need any help with Mr Blank just tell him Sonny Clusters says hello. We was both Marstons.

Buzz

July 21st, 2011
12:04 pm

Anyone want to buy $320 dollars of cool t-shirts?

janie hopwood

July 21st, 2011
12:10 pm

Who cares? Every high school in Ga. plays football as do many of the colleges. We don’t have to have pro football. Players/owners could all disappear and the world will go on and football, real football, will still exist.