It's beginning to look as if a deal to end the NFL lockout could come on or around July 19, the date of the next scheduled mediation between the league and its players -- with NFL owners expected to ratify the agreement two days later at a scheduled meeting in Atlanta.
That doesn't mean the league resumes business immediately. Players must approve the deal too, and if nothing else, that process is complicated by their decertification. Nevertheless, once they sign off on it, look for a frenzy of activity -- with camps opening, rookies and free agents signed, trades produced and a preseason launched.
One possible complication: The Hall of Fame Game.
There is a chance, sources tell me, that the Aug. 7 game between Chicago and St. Louis might be canceled because their training camps would open later than scheduled. Nobody, however, has made that decision.
The Bears were set to open training camp July 22, with the Rams to follow on July 23, and both dates probably get pushed back until a new deal is in place -- with the players the variable because of the uncertain timing of their ratification. Besides, the league isn't interested in rushing into something that might compromise player safety, and if it takes canceling one preseason game it will do it.
At this point, it seems the league believes it can play its second week of preseason games, though there remains the possibility that some of those contests could be postponed a day or two -- again, depending on how quickly a new CBA goes into effect and training camps open.