Owners optimistic they have enough votes

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ATLANTA – Two NFL owners expressed optimism that the league would approve a new collective bargaining agreement today at a hotel near the Atlanta airport.

But what the players will do is a mystery.

“You can only control what you can control,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. “We’re optimistic and trying to do our part. There’s a lot of moving parts, but everything’s headed in the right direction.”

Added Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, “I’m in favor of getting this deal done.

“It’s a win-win for labor and ownership.”

Reports widely suggested that players would vote to ratify the new CBA Wednesday, when a representative from all 32 clubs met in Washington D.C. and numerous other players were apprised of contract details on a conference call. But, players only conditionally approved a deal, pending certain stipulations, and what would take place Thursday was unclear.

One prominent player told the Sun-Times that no conference call was scheduled for today and said he was frustrated with being left in the dark.

The league, meanwhile, was more forthcoming with its plan. Owners started a meeting at 10 a.m., which would conclude with a vote. Then, top executives and other key personnel would head to a nearby hotel to get apprised of the new rules at least 90 minutes later. Depending on when the vote takes place, the latter meeting could leak into Friday. Many of the owners, meanwhile, are expected to head to Massachusetts for the funeral of Myra Kraft, the late wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

The Bears are represented by George McCaskey and Ted Phillips. General manager Jerry Angelo may not attend but Cliff Stein, the senior director of football administration, is expected here.

The league seems to be putting the proverbial ball in the players’ court, based on the optimism of many. That would then put — fairly or unfairly — public pressure on the players.

“I don’t think there will be any surprises as to what the deal terms are from an ownership perspective,” Blank said. “I suspect a great majority of ownership to support the work the league has done.”

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