Even though there’s still plenty of work to be done, secret meeting is positive news for NFL

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (C) enters a federal courthouse to resume talks regarding labor and revenue issues between the NFL and the NFL Players Association in Minneapolis, May 16, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS)

Just try and halt my enthusiasm after reading about this little clandestine meeting that took place between union officials and NFL owners on Wednesday. The moment I heard about the news I ran up and down the streets screaming, “DING DONG THE LOCKOUT IS DEAD, SNITCHES!”

All right, so I’m not that excited. But the fact that DeMaurice Smith and other NFLPA union officials (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days after decertifying back in March) met with top NFL owners and commissioner Roger Goodell can only be viewed as a positive sign when it comes to the current labor strife.

The details are murky and it doesn’t appear that anything imminent is about to happen with the lockout, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that progress wasn’t made. The fact that the two sides are even talking is good enough. It may mean that they’re laying the groundwork for a new CBA deal and while the lockout may not end soon, the two sides have to start somewhere.

Look, there’s still a lot of work to be done. There’s still a lack of trust on both sides, there’s still the small matter of the owners wanting the players to take a paycut and the players wanting the owners to fork over financial statements from the last X amount of years, and there’s still billions of the fans’ money that needs to be fought over. But again, I’m encouraged.

Personally, I think the best piece of news that has come out of this is that Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was one of the five owners who attended the get-together. If you remember correctly, he was the one that ticked off many of the players early in the negotiations by treating Peyton Manning like a man who couldn’t even figure out which one of his shoes belonged on which foot. When ESPN’s Adm Schefter tweeted Thursday morning that the meeting was so secretive that there were other NFL owners “that didn’t even know about” it, I thought for sure Richardson was left off the invite list. But maybe his heart is starting to thaw, too.

So where do we go from here? The two sides will now head down to St. Louis where their lawyers will argue in front of a three-judge panel on Friday. The NFL is appealing an injunction that was grated by Judge Susan Nelson to block the lockout and the appeals court has already granted a full stay of that injunction. Thus, the owners are expected to emerge from this round of court-related nausea as the victors.

But maybe after their trip to the Eighth Circuit, the two sides will reconvene again and start actually making progress on the CBA. It’s frustrating to think that during this time, the owners and players could have been working on a new labor deal instead of fighting in courts about the lockout. But in the end that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the two sides actually start to make productive strides to ending this charade so that everyone can enjoy professional football come fall.

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