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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New CBA deal coming in the next 2-3 weeks?

DeMaurice Smith (R), executive director of the NFL Players’ Association, stands with attorneys Gregg Levy (C), David Boies (L) and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel (background) before he speaks to the media after attending a federal court hearing regarding labor negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association in St. Paul, April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL CRIME LAW BUSINESS)

The Washington Post’s Mark Maske reports that the NFL could finalize its new Collective Bargaining Agreement within the next 2-3 weeks.

Owners of the 32 teams, scheduled to attend a meeting in Chicago Tuesday, have been told to leave their schedules open in case the session runs late that night or spills over into the following day, said several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are at a sensitive stage.

It is possible–but very unlikely–that the owners could vote on a labor deal at that meeting, said several of the people, who did not participate in the talks but are familiar with developments. It is more likely, they said, that owners could give negotiators their opinions and a deal with the players could be completed the following week.

A deal that week, just before the July 4 holiday, appears increasingly realistic, said people on both sides of the dispute.

Others, however, cautioned that a deal between league and the players remains less than a certainty and talks still could unravel. notes that Maske “has been one of the most plugged-in and reliable reporters on the CBA talks,” so that’s comforting. And after speaking with Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and former Titan Kevin Carter over the last two weeks, I too get the sense that the two sides are getting closer.

That said, both Allen and Carter expressed that there is still a lot that needs to be ironed out. The players are holding their ground when it comes to benefits for both current and former athletes. That’s a huge sticking point for them, as they want to ensure that the league will take care of retired players long past their days in pads and cleats.

But at the very least, it appears as though these labor talks are moving in the right direction. It’s a very good sign that the two sides are talking out of court.

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