Over the past few weeks a collection of owners and players have been meeting for several days at a time in various cities in order to come to an agreement on a new labor deal and end the NFL lockout. The news has been generally positive in that time period with reports of progress being made.
This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith met with their respective teams -- and without other owners and players. It was the first time those two had met without owners and players in these set of negotiations so we wondered what the significance of that was.
Goodell and Smith both flew to Florida together on Wednesday morning to speak to players at the NFLPA's rookie symposium, which was interpreted as a good sign, and they returned to Minnesota shortly thereafter.
On Thursday, the two sides will meet again but, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network, the meetings will now include other owners and players.
A number of owners and players arrived Wednesday in the Twin Cities to prepare for scheduled talks that will include NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and the legal teams.
One of my theories was that Goodell and Smith were meeting on their own because all of the high-level, conceptual negotiations had already been hammered out. With the return of other owners and players, I'm not sure exactly what the status of the negotiations is.
Smith continues to tell players that a deal isn't close but there are dozens of other reports, including our own sources, who suggest major progress is being made and a deal could be struck within weeks. I still believe that's the case and hope to see a deal within the first week of July.
Once again, fans are left waiting to see what happens next. The two sides likely need an agreement completed and finalized by mid-July. That would give us some semblance of free agency before training camps begin and would also allow the preseason to go off.