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NFL Lockout: It's business time

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CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 04:  A general view of the Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium as the NFL lockout looms on March 4, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 04: A general view of the Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium as the NFL lockout looms on March 4, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Joint statements are good signs, so rejoice that today's joint statement between the NFL and players issued a joint statement confirming their progress in settlement talks this week. The big names have packed it in for the weekend. Lawyers and bean counters will work through the weekend. Everyone now seems slightly more convinced than usual that they NFL and players will be announcing a settlement very soon.

Ich spreche Zarathustra:

The discussions this week have been constructive and progress has been made on a wide range of issues. Our legal and financial teams will continue to work through the weekend. We will continue to respect the confidentiality orders of Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan and will therefore refrain from commenting on specific issues or aspects of the negotiations. We will provide additional information as developments in this process continue.

There could have been any number of hurdles, but the big one these last two weeks was the rookie pay scale. After breaking through on that, the two sides picked up the pace of negotiations. Owners gave in on that issue once it was revealed that the players had lockout insurance that would have paid them $200,000 each in the event of a lockout...maybe.

The owners gave up on the right of first refusal tags, getting a 72-hour period to negotiate with their own free agents. Some say that teams have already initiated illegal, behind the scenes talk with free agents now.

Issues remaining to be solved include how to wrap up the court cases.

It's almost over. Remember, they have a date set with Judge Arthur Boylan, their mediator, on July 19. Owners are meeting on July 21. A deal is going to get done.

But how soon for the Hall of Fame Game, which the St. Louis Rams are scheduled to play on August 7? I'm steadfast in my hope that it gets nixed, not pressuring the Rams to get ready while the front office signs rookies and free agents, not to mention the rush for players who haven't been in pads for months.

Detroit Lions LB Zach Follett said that his team is reporting on July 25. That's earlier than teams were scheduled to begin training camp, but beyond the Rams anticipated start date. Has there been an arrangement on when camps could open? Could that earlier date for the Lions, if Follett is correct, mean the league is starting all teams at the same time for fairness?

What would be the best way to get things started again to give all teams the same amount of time to sign players, etc.?

Should they play the Hall of Fame Game?

Either way...the lockout is almost over.