In mid-June, a source with intimate knowledge of the NFL labor negotiations told me a settlement before the start of the season was nearly a forgone conclusion. He was so enthused by the progress being made he said a deal could be hammered out with plenty of time for free agency (albeit slightly rushed) before the scheduled opening of training camps next month.
“A June 30 or July 4 announcement [of a new collective bargaining agreement] is a reasonable expectation,” the source said.
Well, Thursday is June 30 and the owners and the players continue to display new reasons to believe that initial, ambitious timeline is still possible. June 30 seems a bit optimistic at this point, but July 4 for a new labor deal? On America’s birthday can America get the gift of a return of America’s game?
Maybe. Maybe not. Just know this: If not by Monday, then there are few signs it’ll be much longer.
Lawyers for both sides are in the middle of a scheduled three-day session in Minnesota, with a willingness to carry over until Friday, according to NFL Network. Actual owners and players were out of the room through Wednesday, a sign, perhaps, that it was just the details that needed hashing out.
According to various published reports, select owners and players, not to mention NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith, will join the session Thursday, perhaps even a better sign. The lawyers probably aren’t calling back their clients for bad news.