After two days of meetings that included only the legal teams for each side, the big players come in today.
Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith, assorted owners and players will enter the negotiating room on Thursday with one goal in mind: get a deal done.
While in theory that has been the goal all along, negotiations up until a few weeks ago were all about posturing, not backing down, and flexing muscles. But with the first pre-season game a month away, and the first training camp less then 3 weeks away, the time has come to get serious and make a deal.
One source close to SI.com said that a few months ago, the two sides were “not even in the same stadium.” But after working through each issue bit by bit, the sides are now “in the red zone, driving, with the goal line in sight.”
Can the momentum be messed up on it’s way in for the score? “Absolutely,” cautioned the source.
It is estimated by Albert Breer that from the day the deal is done to the day the contract is signed will take 14 days. While the lawyers worked over the last few days to cut down some of that time, not much could be done without a deal in place. One interesting note was that it appears training camp rosters will be increased to as many as 90 players, 10 more then last year.
If the two sides needed anymore reason to make a deal by Friday, then the planned vacation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan on Saturday should be extra motivation. Boylan is a major reason that talks did not break down last week, when both sides nearly stormed from the table during the 13 hour negotiation marathon. Once Boylan is on vacation, he may not be their to keep talks going if they once again reach a boiling point.
If negotiations do reach that point, it will be up to Goodell and Smith to push through and convince their side that the time to make a deal is now. If they can do that, the NFL could leave this lockout without taking the major PR hit it will if even a single pre-season game is missed.
The two sides have taken enough time off since the lock out started. There is no reason that negotiations should not go through the weekend, or however long it takes until a deal is done. If the sides are as close as reported, then the work needs to be done to hammer it out and make it official. There is a thin line between being close, and the sides becoming frustrated with each other for not making the final compromise to get a deal done. If negotiations go into late next week, that point may be reached. Once that point is reached all momentum will be lost, and the pre-season becomes in serious jeopardy of being missed.
So when the two sides meet tomorrow, they need to do so with a mind frame that the time for playing games has passed.
Get a deal done- and now.