The NFL owners are represented by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who came came into office in September of 2006 inheriting the final labor deal former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue had completed. The trust among the owners in Goodell is so much that they will likely approve any deal he approves.
The NFL players are represented by NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, who came into office in March of 2009. He has more of a legal background, and not an NFL background, beating out three other candidates. The players voted him as executive director unanimously.
Those two men are running the show. An NFL lockout, and they're both getting blamed in what would arguably be the worst period of their professional lives. But avoiding a lockout and, well, that would be the best period of their professional lives.
Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports reports sources tell him Goodell and Smith "shined" during the negotiations Thursday.
In the end, owners came away with a higher regard for Smith than most of them have had since he replaced the late Gene Upshaw nearly two years ago. They were convinced by Thursday evening that Smith was prepared to make a deal and believed others on his executive committee were less enthusiastic about agreeing to the general framework being discussed by the two sides.
I wouldn't say there was disrespect between Smith and the owners but more unfamiliarity. This is the first bit of labor unrest they've gone through with him and they don't have the same relationship with him as they did with former executive director Gene Upshaw.
If the owners and NFLPA can develop a solid foundation for a long relationship, I'm going to start feeling more comfortable not only about this labor deal getting done, but the future ones to come.