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NFL Lockout 2011: Owners' Meetings Crucial To New Deal

Various reports I came across this morning mentioned that the NFL Lockout passed the 100-day mark over the weekend. Truth is, though, that while this is technically the longest work stoppage in NFL history, the important stuff -- training camp, the preseason and the regular season -- have not yet been affected.

If a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached soon, however, that will change. The owners meet in Chicago this week, beginning Tuesday, and those meetings will be critical in the effort to get deal done in time to get an on-time start to the 2011 season, or save the season altogether.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

... the league and its players went into this process without any real urgency to get a deal done. March, April, May, and June were always disposable. Lo and behold, they have been disposed of.

Now July is knocking. July was not, and is not, disposable.

This week, NFL owners will gather in Chicago to harrumph over whatever progress has been made in the "secret" (even though everyone knew where and when they occurred) negotiations between Goodell and a handful of owners on one side and DeMaurice Smith and a small group of players on the other. What happens in Chicago on Tuesday and Wednesday could well determine whether this thing ends without serious bloodshed or things get really ugly.

The question about the owners' meetings Tuesday and Wednesday is whether this group of rich, egotistical men used to getting what they want can come to an agreement on exactly what it is that they want out of this agreement with the players. There have been recent reports that several of the owners are not happy with the direction in which negotiations have been going.

For me, the fact that we are this late in the process and the owners as a group are still apparently squabbling over exactly how much they want to squeeze out of the players is an amazing thing. What, exactly, they were hoping to accomplish should have been settled long ago.

CBS Sports reported this morning that if the owners are able to come to an agreement while they meet Tuesday and Wednesday, New York Giants co-owner John Mara and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will be the ones who bring them together.

CBS referred to Mara and Kraft as "the cool heads in a chemically imbalanced owner mix of testosterone, absurdly large egos and billable hours." One player close to the negotiations told CBS the pair are the "key to a new deal."

Most reports have indicated that a deal, or at least the framework of a deal that will allow the league to move forward, must get done by early July in order for the league to open training camps on time.

That makes sense because teams like the New York Giants and New York Jets, who generally hold training camp away from their regular-season facilities, need to notify officials at those facilities of their plans. Also, teams need an opportunity to sign free agents, make trades and medically evaluate players returning from injuries prior to the opening of training camps. You would think at least a two- to three-week window is needed for those things.

So, it is pretty apparent that we have reached crunch time.