Location, location, location. Talks between the NFL and the players have moved to Minnesota this week, the same neighborhood as the federal district court of Judge Susan Nelson who is overseeing the antitrust case. The scene of the talks has led several to speculate that a deal is close, proximity allowing for direct consultation with the court to get the settlement approved. Today, PFT reads the tea leaves and sees the end of the impasse and the beginning of the 2011 season.
A big tell came yesterday, when Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith traveled together to the NFLPA rookie symposium. Was it just a demonstration of good will? Maybe, but given the animosity between the two sides such a gesture would seem unlikely if a deal were anything but eminent.
Meetings this week are taking place without players and owners, another likely sign that the two sides have the framework of a deal done, with only the legal details to be finalized. Goodell and Smith are there to keep the lawyers on task and not get lured away by the possibility of endless legal fees. PFT points to a couple of reports that support this notion.
As far as picking a date, the progress might allow the settlement to be filed with the court on Friday, the last business day before the 4th of July weekend. The NFL has never shied away from chaining itself to patriotism. Amazingly enough, they've never allowed that celebration to turn into out and out jingoism (it's actually a nice contrast to the bastardized patriotism politicians spew in an effort to shame their opponents and us into voting for them). Announcing the return of professional football coinciding with Independence Day would be another brilliant PR coup, something the league needs to help fans forget about the bitterness this situation created.
Not so fast...PFT now reports that a deal might take some more time, possibly another week. According to their source, some owners are trying to squeeze a few more concessions out of it. You have to wonder if this isn't some of the small market owners who were grumbling about the outline of the deal, i.e. the revenue split paired with the 90+ percent cash cap floor. That's pure speculation on my part.
A week doesn't seem like much for fans who have suffered through this thing for more than three months now, but a week will be a huge difference for the St. Louis Rams. The Rams are scheduled to start training camp during the week of July 18-21, a week earlier because of their date with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton on August 7. Pushing the labor deal back another week would give Billy Devaney a week for intensive free agent shopping and Kevin Demoff a week to workout contracts with the team's draft picks and any free agents they sign. A week. Typically, they have five or six months for all of that to happen.