Cautious optimism is the general feeling around today's labor talks in the NFL. Player and owner representatives are sitting down at the table for the first time this week, a sign perhaps that the lawyers have worked out some details of an agreement to review and discuss. Most believe that all signs point to an announcement this weekend, possibly as early as today.
However, there are several reports and whispers that suggest otherwise, and that no deal soon could mean no deal for a long, long time.
The chief source of tension is the belief that players, sensing a deal is close and anxious to resume getting paid, will take any deal, and owners might try to take advantage of that sentiment by squeezing a few more concessions. Last night, there was a report floated by Jay Glazer at Fox Sport alleging that De Smith told some of the league's top players that a deal was not close. Other reporters very close to the labor talks shot it down.
PFT is reporting via sources close to the talks that Jeffrey Kessler and Jim Quinn, lead attorneys for the players in the antirust case, are trying to scuttle the progress made toward a deal. Why? Among other reasons exists the possibility of the players owning, truly owning, a part of the league, which would result in a dramatically changed business landscape for professional sports. Remember, Kessler is representing NBA players in their labor dealings. If Kessler and Quinn can delay the process for just a couple weeks, it could change the playing field significantly, with missed revenues.
Smith and the player reps at the table today are essentially the only ones that can stand between Kessler and progress, if there truly is a concerted effort on his part to continue fighting. That could make today the most pivotal moment in the talks. Since I'm contractually bound to use a football analogy, today is a bit like the Rams' fourth quarter against Seattle in week 17. A touchdown likely means playoffs; nothing means the end of the season.
While optimism still seems to dominate the sentiment around the talks in Minnesota, it's worth pointing out what Dan Wetzel said at Yahoo today: if there is not a deal by the holiday, there probably won't be for a long time.