The NFL’s owners and players continue to meet “secretly” in the Washington area as optimism grows surrounding the labor mess that has plagued the league since March 12. And at this point, they’re in “deal-making mode.”

The difference this week is that the lawyers for both sides have rejoined the negotiation process. While the presence of litigators was considered to be disruptive and borderline counterproductive in previous weeks and months, some believe that their inclusion at this stage indicates that the two parties are making serious progress and are ready to start putting things on paper.

The owners will be meeting in Chicago one week from today, and multiple reports indicate that they’re being asked to clear their schedules in order to stay Wednesday to vote on a new collective bargaining agreement.

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