The most unclandestine of clandestine meetings to ever take place ended today with explosive anticlimacticness. Due to a gag order over the entire proceedings, all we can do as 'journalists' *cough* is speculate on what went on behind closed doors.
Earlier in the week, rumors had it that things were going very, very well and as much as 80% of the deal was in place. If we were to believe the reports coming out from multiple well-placed sources, the lawyers entering the fray once again meant that they would simply need to review the new deal and everyone could shake hands, pat each other on the back, go to the strip club, eat a steak, and fly home.
Despite Adam Schefter and Liz Mullen's dire warnings this morning to remain calm and not get your hopes up, I did, in fact, get my hopes up and not remain calm. I may have gotten a little ahead of myself by going out this afternoon and buying myself a new toy.
Turns out, when the lawyers got involved, according to Schefter, talks "almost blew up". Per SuperSchef, "One person close to the talks went so far as to say, "This almost blew up yesterday." How close it got to that point is a matter of opinion. The moment may have come shortly after lawyers from both sides were brought back into the process at an undisclosed location in the Washington, D.C., area. As tensions rose and anger grew, two sources said NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith instructed his lawyers to "stand down."
Though I was not in the room with the NFL and Ownership representatives at the time (I was trying to get cell reception in the hall so I could finish my game of 'words with friends'), I can only imagine the scene looked a little bit like THIS right before cooler heads prevailed. Or something.
Regardless, there is no official word on the status of the new CBA or even if that's what they're talking about in there (what are they doing back there? ..I never know what they're doing back there), but here's what the latest scuttlebutt going around says.
Per Ralph Vacciano of the NY Daily News, "The general feeling remained that there's a good chance a deal can be reached in time to preserve all of training camp and the full preseason and regular-season schedules. Many, in fact, continue to expect a deal to be reached by early July.
That said, many sources took a more cautious tone Wednesday, one day after many reports suggesting a deal was "almost done" or even "80-85 percent complete". Those sources characterized those reports as overly optimistic and said crafting a long-term CBA with so many moving parts is a complicated process and there were still chances for future snags or delays."
According to Albert Breer of NFL.com, "the talks remain productive and are moving forward, though a resolution to the three-month-old lockout is not on the immediate horizon. Both sides have evaluated and strongly considered the concessions and compromises that could ultimately lead to the problem being solved, though, and sources indicated an agreement could come within a month.
"Discussions between NFL owners and players under the auspices of Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan took place again this week and will continue. At the request of Judge Boylan, both sides have agreed to maintain the confidentiality of the substance of the talks.""
Adam Schefter added, "During winter negotiations, many around the league worried lawyers were controlling the process. But Tuesday's events are the strongest evidence to date they are not.
Lawyers will have to be involved in the final resolution, drawing up any agreement and signing off on what each side can and can't do. Any agreement would have to be presented to the judge in the case to be ratified. Multiple sources familiar with the talks said progress is being made, but they cautioned there's "a lot of drama and a lot of room for mistakes left."
To say this is going to be done in two weeks, one source said, "is borderline insane.""