There's been lots of talk about how the owners and the NFLPA would never come to an agreement and we'd lose part or all of the 2011 season. As far back as last year NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith was 100% confident that there would be a lockout.
"On a scale of 1 to 10," Smith said, "it's a 14."
Texans fullback Vonta Leach (he's player rep for the Texans), had this to say about the possibility of a lockout.
"We as players want to play, but the owners are not allowing us to play (if they have a lockout). They've taken a stand and a strategy to prevent us from playing."
Just last week Peter King wrote in his MMQB article that he thought both sides "hate" each other and that the soonest he could see a deal getting done would be September 13th, but probably later than that.
And yet, just a week later we have Roger Abrams, an expert in Sports Law, saying:
"George is very good," says Roger Abrams, a law professor at Northeastern University in Boston and author of Sports Justice, a book about major sports law cases on the past century.
"I've always been very optimistic about the prospects for reaching a deal. Now, I think it's possible they may reach a deal within the next week or so."
Why the optimism? It's because of George Cohen, the mediator that's been brought in to handle talks between the two sides. On Friday the two sides announced that he would be mediating. Since then the two sides have met for 4 days of bargaining, with a 5th day scheduled tomorrow, for a total of 27 hours. For those keeping track, that's more time spent at the bargaining table in 4 days than h as been spent at the bargaining table in the last 12 months.
One condition of the negotiations were that both sides were to keep mum about what was being discussed. To me it's a very encouraging sign that no information at all has been leaked. This is very much unlike past bargaining sessions where information was leaked almost immediately to the press by one side or the other. Thus far the only comments have been generic statements like this:
"Things are going well right now," the Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch, a member of the union's executive committee, who has attended all four days of negotiations, told reporters as he left Monday's meeting. "We'll see how things progress over the next couple days."
There are a total of 7 days scheduled for talks, which would put us at the 24th. If a deal is not done by March 4th, then we have the very real threat of a lockout. If the owners and players haven't come to an agreement by March 4th, there's also the possibility of them agreeing to extend the deadline by days or weeks while they continue to negotiate. They did this in 2006, when they were very close to a deal being done. The owners and the union agreed to extend the bargaining by 72 hours, and the deal was finalized in that time frame.
I've been saying all along that you shouldn't listen to the doom and gloom from either side, that the real negotiating doesn't start taking place until the deadline approaches. This is true of almost every single labor/management agreement that I've been a part of or studied, and this one is no different. We've got almost two weeks left before the deadline, and despite the rhetoric the two sides are not that far apart in their final numbers. As I pointed out in my article last week they're really arguing over the difference in 5% of gross revenue. There are some incidental issues, but that's the big one and I'm 100% confident they'll get done in time.