It's becoming hard for even the most pessimistic individual not to become at least slightly encouraged about the prospects for an end to the lockout and a new collective bargaining agreement in the near future. The news that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith flew together to Florida so that Goodell could speak at the PA-sponsored Rookie Symposium was good enough, but now, the news came out that the two particulars are flying back to further negotiations in Minnesota.
"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," Smith said in after Goodell's talk with the rookies
"We're taking a break because we felt it was important to be down here with the players," Goodell added. "We both have great respect, obviously, for the players. This is an important few days. We're going to get back to work."
That's not even the best news — the best news is that they'll have some old buddies to talk to as talks progress.
Goodell and Smith, who have been meeting with their staffs this week without the players and owners present, will continue negotiations with the players and owners now on board. According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, several representatives from both sides flew into Minneapolis on Wednesday for Thursday's meeting. Reports indicate that there are no meetings scheduled for Friday at this point, but that everyone involved has been advised to clear their calendars.
The important thing to remember is just exactly what Smith told a select group of players on a Tuesday conference call -- that as close as the two sides have come, there's still much to be done.
What's been going on in these meetings? The two sides have been trading proposals, with the rookie wage scale and the overall revenue take each side will enjoy as the main sticking points, But as Breer said on Wednesday's "Total Access" show on NFL Network, the fact that everyone is still talking through those gaps in perception is a very big deal.
It's becoming pretty clear that everyone realizes the urgency in getting a deal done as soon as possible. Training camps and preseason games are just weeks away, and there's still a lot of detail work to be done. However, each progression in the last four weeks of confidential mediated talks seems to be a positive one, so it's a good time to bask in the idea that we're closer to real football than we've been since Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers took his championship belt off the field at the end of Super Bowl XLV.