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Terry Pegula on NFL owners' meeting with players: 'A lot got done between us'

NEW YORK – Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula liked what he heard.

Without revealing specifics, Pegula acknowledged that he and 10 other owners representing the NFL and a dozen active players found some common ground during a four-hour meeting at league headquarters Tuesday prompted by growing concerns over players kneeling during the national anthem.

"We agreed to work on some social issues that the players have brought up," Pegula told The Buffalo News. "It's something we're working on. Very good meeting, very amicable.

"A lot got done between us."

Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was also part of the meeting along with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, said the NFL did not ask players to commit to standing for the anthem.

“We spent (Tuesday) talking about the issues that our players have been trying to bring attention to, issues to make our communities better," Goodell told reporters. "I think we all agree there’s nothing more important than trying to give back to our communities and make them better."

Pegula and the rest of the ownership contingent that gathered at the NFL's midtown offices later joined most of the rest of their fellow owners and Goodell at the lower Manhattan hotel for the league's annual fall meeting. The players' protesting during the anthem was at the top of the agenda for the two-day event, which is scheduled to adjourn Wednesday.

Although Pegula wouldn't comment on the subject, multiple people who were part of the meeting at NFL headquarters said privately that anthem protests are becoming secondary to efforts to address social issues in each team’s community as the Bills did in multiple forms Tuesday.

There's a growing sense that, while the NFL won’t institute a hard and fast rule mandating that players stand for the anthem, there's at least an understanding with players that kneeling during the anthem will largely dissipate.

“I don’t think they can make a rule change,” San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid told after the meeting. “The point of the meeting was to discuss these issues and how they are all of our issues.”

Goodell echoed those sentiments about the purpose of the gathering.

"Their commitment to addressing these issues is really admirable and something that our owners looked at and said, 'We want to help support you and those are issues that affect us. They are our issues also, and we'd like to do it together,'" the commissioner said. "The players were very clear about how they felt about these issues and how deeply they felt about these issues in our communities.  Finally, the players and the owners came to an agreement that these aren't really issues that are players issues or owner issues or community issues – but they are issues that affect all of us in our communities. And with our commitment, they wanted to work together to try and address these issues."

Goodell said another meeting was planned "soon," probably in the next two weeks.

Of the dozen active players at the meeting, none was from the Bills. Former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin, who was with the Bills briefly in the preseason, attended.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who also participated in the session and is on record as saying he wants his players to stand during the anthem, told reporters, "We heard what they had to say and they heard us. It’s open talks and that’s a good thing."

Asked if he expected to see more players kneeling in upcoming games, Ross said, "I can't really tell you what people are going to do. The league has a policy, it hasn't changed."

Colin Kaepernick, the free-agent quarterback whose kneeling for the anthem during the 2016 preseason began the trend, was invited to attend the meeting by players who were there, according to Philadelphia Eagles safety and meeting attendee Malcolm Jenkins. Kaepernick apparently didn't take them up on the offer.

Attorney Mark Geragos, who is representing Kaepernick in a collusion grievance the player has filed against the NFL for not being signed by any teams in the league, issued a statement via Twitter making saying no official from the NFL or club executive had invited Kaepernick to the session.

"Other players wanted him present and have asked that he attend the next meeting with the goal of forging a lasting and faithful consensus around these issues," Geragos said. "Mr. Kaepernick is open to future participation on these important discussions."

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