The NFL wants team executives ready to be schooled in the ins and outs of a new labor contract as early as Thursday, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Players are gathering in Washington so they’re ready to vote on an agreement in principle even sooner than that.

Signs are strong that football’s four-month lockout might almost be over.

Lawyers for both sides were scheduled to meet with a court-appointed mediator in New York on Tuesday, when representatives of retired players were expected to participate, too, in an attempt to close a deal to resolve the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith spoke to each other on the telephone Monday and planned to stay in regular contact.

Owners are set to hold a special meeting in Atlanta on Thursday, when they could ratify a new agreement - if there is one. Executives from all 32 teams then would be briefed there Thursday and Friday on how the terms would affect league business, two people familiar with the plan told The Associated Press.