Reports out of New York indicate that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA representative (or whatever he is) DeMaurice Smith actually managed to enjoy a dinner together that was described as "very jovial" in nature. Apparently the two were kicking back at Aretsky's Patroon in New York and were able to have a nice congenial dinner.
It remains to be seen if labor issues were discussed, but the fact that the two were able to sit down in a one-on-one dinner has to be a good thing. One of the most significant issues that has gotten in the way of a long term deal is trust. While the two sides acknowledge each other's existence, a lack of trust has prevented a deal from getting done.
At this point, the important issue is getting a deal together that will not have one side backing out in a few years. The big issue with the last deal was the fact that the owners felt they had been raked over the coals, and thus felt the need to opt out of the deal. I have to believe that a major reason for the owner's decision to opt out was the change in the economy. You've got real estate issues in financing new stadiums combined with the general issue of getting television money. It was a bad time for the owners and they felt their profits were sinking to the point that it made sense to opt out and negotiate a new deal.
As the two sides try and negotiate some kind of settlement, I would argue the best possible deal would be determined prior to a decision by the Eighth Circuit. If the Eighth Circuit issues a decision that even remotely favors one side or the other, the leverage created might lead that favored side to want to push through a deal that strongly favors them. Although it might actually get a deal done sooner rather than later, it also would be a deal that the losing side would not like and would fight it down the road.
It really would be a sign of growth if the two sides could come up with a deal now while leverage remains up for grabs. If the two sides could negotiate a settlement to keep the courts out of it, we could be on our way to a lasting labor peace. I'm not exactly holding my breath for it, but crazier things have happened. If Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith can have a "jovial" dinner together, maybe the two sides can work out some kind of deal before it's too late.