With face-to-face negotiations between the principle figures involved in the NFL's labor fight scheduled to again resume Thursday in New York, many observers believe the end game to this messy, four-month test of wills and wallets has at last come into view.
Or at least they desperately want to believe it. But has it really? Assessing how much progress has been made toward a resolution, and more importantly, how much work remains to be done in the CBA talks is a difficult and inexact judgment to make. The folks who are on the inside of the negotiations are legally bound by a gag order. Everyone else seems in short supply of reliable information about where things really stand, leading to a rollercoaster effect of optimism and pessimism, as the negotiations refuse to be plotted on a steady, rising line of progress. Exactly as negotiations are wont to do.
So are we on the cusp of an intense final push that will bring long-awaited labor peace to the NFL for the better part of the next decade, or will Thursday and the coming negotiation sessions just bring more of the same monotonous push and pull we've seen since this stand-off began months and months ago?
I spent Wednesday posing questions like those to sources within the NFL, asking in essence if the league and its players are on the 5-yard line of this long and arduous march toward a deal, or if this particular drive still threatens to come up short and potentially wreck the 2011 season. If there was a consensus opinion, it might have been that both scenarios remain possible, with perhaps a slight quibble over how favorable the current field position should be characterized.