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Influential owners, Goodell, Smith meet outside Chicago

Several influential NFL owners gathered Wednesday at a West Chicago airport, and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith reportedly was present at this meeting as well. Initial news of the gathering was reported by the Chicago Tribune, leading to speculation of a clandestine meeting that included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. NFL.com's Albert Breer reported Thursday morning that Smith was part of the meeting.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was spotted boarding his private jet just after 2:30 p.m., then departed from DuPage Airport. Not far behind was Jerry Jones' private jet, adorned with the Dallas Cowboys star on the tail. Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, a key voice for the league during the three-month-old lockout, also was believed to be at the airport.

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney and New York Giants co-owner John Mara were also in attendance, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported, citing league sources.

Multiple sources told the Tribune that Goodell arrived at the airport late Tuesday afternoon.

A league source told La Canfora that several players were also scheduled to be present. The idea came together last week with the intention that the meeting in the Chicago suburbs be kept secret.

At this point it does not seem like there were any significant breakthroughs from the meeting, according to La Canfora's sources, though the fact the parties got together and exchanged ideas was in and of itself a positive step. La Canfora reported that sources on both sides continue to estimate a deal gets done sometime in late July or early August.

The NFL office didn't provide details on the possible meeting. Airport officials declined comment.

NFL owners locked out the players March 12 in what has become the longest work stoppage in league history. On Friday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the league's appeal of a district judge's injunction to lift the lockout.

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