Are the lawyers preventing the players and owners from negotiating a CBA deal?

James Quinn (L) and Jeffrey Kessler (R), attorneys for the NFL Players Association enter a federal courthouse to resume court-ordered mediation 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 CRIME LAW BUSINESS)

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that labor discussions between the players and owners “almost blew up” on Wednesday when lawyers were allowed back in the room.

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.”

With the lawyers removed from the direct negotiations, the process was said to get back on track and to a good spot. The scenario is an example of just how tenuous these talks can be and how quickly they can be derailed.

But it also is the ultimate proof that Smith and his players, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners, have taken the process out of the hands of the attorneys and demanded that they control it as the two sides try to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.

What’s interesting is that this is exactly what Vikings defensive end Jared Allen told me last week when I asked him his thoughts on the lockout: “Attorneys just seem to cause problems.”

Granted, he laughed after he said it but it wasn’t the only time he mentioned how the lawyers were holding up the negotiation process. And in Schefter’s report, he mentions how during talks last winter, “many around the league worried that the lawyers were controlling the process.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the only reason there isn’t a new CBA in place right now is because the attorneys are mucking everything up. Without completely understanding the full scope of the situation or having a front row seat to the labor discussions, we can only speculate as to what’s really going on. Not even Schefter, who is as tuned in as any NFL reporter, knows unequivocally what’s taking place behind closed doors.

Let’s just hope that if the lawyers are causing problems, Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith will continue to step up to ensure that these talks continue to move forward. For the first time during this entire charade, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s not have anyone or anything derail that.

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