CHICAGO – Today in Chicago, two representatives from each NFL team are scheduled to attend what should be the most significant league meeting since the lockout began.
But the meeting isn’t so significant that the result of it is expected to be the end of the lockout.
The main purpose of the meeting is to update and survey team owners and executives on progress made in recent negotiations between small groups led by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.
After months of contentious talks, courtroom debates and insults, the two sides have worked together and moved forward in recent weeks, beginning with a secret meeting held in St. Charles, Ill. They still have many miles to go, however.
Issues such as revenue sharing, a rookie wage scale, the salary cap, free agency requirements and health benefits are expected to be discussed and debated at length. That’s a lot of ground to cover.
The meeting originally was scheduled to conclude today, but the league has told participants to be prepared in case it bleeds over to Wednesday.
The hope is that Goodell and his team of negotiators will leave Chicago empowered to get a deal done in the near future. For that to happen, 24 of the 32 owners will have to be on board with the major issues. Nine dissenters could kill a potential deal.
Both the NFL and NFLPA are more motivated than ever, in part because the season is drawing near, and in part because both sides fear what could happen if the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the NFL’s request to permanently block an injunction that lifted the lockout. One of the judges warned both sides they would not be happy with a decision if it comes to that.
The best-case scenario is that a new collective bargaining agreement is in place by July 4 so free agency can begin no later than July 15 and training camps can commence as scheduled.
The first preseason game, between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams in Canton, Ohio, is scheduled for Aug. 7.