NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFLPA's DeMaurice Smith are meeting in Minnesota this week without other owners and players and some are interpreting this as a sign that a new agreement could be on its way shortly ending the NFL lockout that passed 100 days long last week.
That the other owners and players aren't involved suggests the two have moved past the big-picture negotiating and now move into the details of creating a new collective bargaining agreement. Albert Breer of NFL Network confirms that the Goodell and Smith meeting is seen as a positive.
The changing time frame surrounding this set of talks and the shifting cast of characters -- the first "secret" meetings only included Goodell, Smith, owners, players and U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan -- are seen as part of the process of negotiating a new agreement to end a lockout that's in its fourth month.
It's also noteworthy that the talks are being held in Minnesota, site of the antitrust lawsuit filed by the players. If and when Goodell and Smith, and their respective legal teams, hammer out the final bits of the agreement, they'll be in position to file the paperwork to settle the case.
Reading the tea leaves, some are wondering if an announcement of a new agreement could come as soon as Friday. That would then put the wheels in motion to make a new CBA official, go through the court process of settling the case and finalizing plans for free agency.