Someone smarter than me could make a dazzling connection between yesterday's fill release of the Pentagon Papers and the ongoing clandestine talks happening now between NFL owners and players. I can't even muster an awkward segue contrasting what happens out of the public's watchful eye, other than sometimes it doesn't work out very well and sometimes it's the only way to get things done. The later seems to be the case for saving the NFL from itself.
Progress continues in the settlement talks, and today, Twitter whispers of pending deals, have evolved into visible end dates for the labor standoff in official reports. This week, meetings are happening on the eastern shores of Maryland. Talks are apparently pretty close to bearing fruit; the Washington Post is reporting that a deal is likely by the end of June.
Something was afoot earlier today when reports of NFL owners being asked to stick around for a longer than usual meeting on June 21, in Chicago. What exactly they're going to talk about vis-a-vis the CBA talks has been the subject of rampant speculation, but many believe that owners will in some way, shape or form get a very detailed update on the talks and offer their blessing to finish making the deal.
As the day has progressed, we've also learned that lawyers - which ones isn't as clear - are on hand in Maryland today after being kept at bay through prior sort-of secret meetings. Meeting without lawyers allowed owners and players to talk frankly, in-person, which many saw as essential for actually getting a deal done. That the lawyers are part of the talks today is seen as a good sign, lawyers being an unfortunate necessity in actually writing a legal document, like say a collective bargaining agreement.
So two to three weeks? End of June? Early July? It's hard to contain the optimism, finally, that a deal isn't forthcoming in time to salvage the NFL season. Hell, for the first time ever I'm looking forward to taking preseason football for granted.
The timing of the deal will be of particular interest to the St. Louis Rams, who start their training camp a week earlier than then other NFL teams.
Unlike the Pentagon Papers and the country's political gamesmanship in Southeast Asia, I'm not so concerned about what's been going on behind closed doors. In this case, all we need to see is the final product, how the deal impacts the business of football, the fans and ultimately delivers NFL football with the consistency we've come to expect.