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NFL Labor Negotiations: The Cat's Away, Will The Mice Play?

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On Saturday March 12, the NFL Lockout began. Today marks Day 122 of the lockout. The court ruled on Friday that the lockout could continue although the final legality of it will not be adjudicated until the underlying antitrust lawsuit is heard, if it is heard at all. In the meantime at some point in the yet to be determined future, the two sides will again appear in front of Judge Nelson in Minnesota for an evidentiary hearing to determine if current free agents and rookies will suffer irreparable harm if they don't get a chance to negotiate contracts.

It will take some time for the evidentiary hearing to get going, which basically leaves us with more negotiating. Last week saw the lawyers working on potential CBA language through Wednesday, with Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith and the rest of the principals getting to the official bargaining table on Thursday and Friday. The court decision seemed to throw a slight wrench in negotiations and we were left most likely with just the lawyers back at it over the weekend. At this point, we're officially entering the danger zone of losing preseason action. If this were a gas tank the red light would have just turned on warning you that you're almost out of gas.

The question is when a deal will get done. Some folks think this is the week it will happen. I'm probably a little less optimistic at this point. I don't if that makes me a pessimist, a realist, or whatever, but I think this carries over into at least next week. Based on the media speculation and leaked information from anonymous sources it's hard to tell where exactly the sides are. One minute there is a problematic difference of opinion on the main revenue sharing. The next minute the main revenue sharing is close to figured out and it's become a battle over the rookie cap.

Given the numerous ups and downs reported by the media, there are few things we can take with any degree of certainty. One such item would be the fact that Judge Arthur Boylan left for vacation on Saturday and has scheduled a mediation session for July 19. Why take a vacation during such an important time? Mike Florio put together a solid explanation of his opinion on the matter. Florio's basic point comes down to Boylan tiring of the two sides screwing around while pushing things to the last possible minute.

Ideally the mediation session will not be necessary. In a perfect world this deal will be hammered out over the next four or five days and we'll have free agency going by next week. Of course, we know this isn't a perfect world. I look at the 19th as a marker because we get so few hard dates in this whole process. We hear varying dates as to when a deal needs to be done to get the preseason started on time. That's not to say the 19th is any sort of drop-dead date for some sort of action beyond mediation, but it's a date worth considering.