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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell NFL Players Associatiexecutive director DeMaurice Smith speak medioutside Ritz-Carlthotel after addressing players during NFLPA rookie symposium

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith speak to the media outside of the Ritz-Carlton hotel after addressing players during the NFLPA rookie symposium on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 in Sarasota, Fla. | AP

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Updated: June 29, 2011 12:38PM

There’s been a lot of speculation on dates, locations and meetings, as the owners and players work toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

But a real tangible sign of progress came today, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell accepted an invitation from NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and addressed the incoming rookie class.

This doesn’t mean a deal is necessarily imminent. But, it was a gesture of goodwill from both Smith and Goodell.

While lawyers are meeting in the Twin Cities, Smith and Goodell jetted to Florida, for the Business of Football Symposium for rookies. They were expected to fly back to the Twin Cities today to rejoin discussions toward a new deal.

“We’re continuing to work hard,” Smith told reporters today. “Both of us felt that it was important to come down for this event. Obviously, what we are doing on the business of football on a macro scale is about getting a fair deal done and trying to get back to the game and business of football as quickly as possible.

“This event was important to ensure that our young men appreciated how important we think these few days are. I’m thrilled that Roger could come down with us and talk to the rookies in a very good, direct way.”

Goodell called it a “great opportunity” to visit with the rookies.

“They obviously have lots of questions. We answered the questions as best we could. But you all know that we’re under certain restrictions,” he said. “We’re taking a break because we felt it was important to be down here with the players. We both have great respect, obviously, for the players. This is an important few days. We’re going to get back to work.”

Neither fielded questions from reporters.

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