All signs point to the NFL and players inching closer to a labor agreement that would not only save the season but keep training camps and exhibition games intact.
If there isn’t a growing peace, both sides are doing an awfully good job of faking it.
In a scene that would have been unimaginable in the toxic aftermath of the NFL Players Assn. decertification and ensuing lockout by club owners, Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, leader of the union-turned-trade association, took the stage together Wednesday at the NFLPA’s rookie symposium in Sarasota, Fla.
Of the negotiations, Smith told the rookies: “The goal is to get this done fast but right so that everything can start on time.”
Afterward, Goodell called it “a great opportunity” to meet with the rookies but didn’t go into detail about the ongoing negotiations, which are scheduled to continue in Minnesota through Friday. Goodell and Smith traveled to Florida together.
“We’re taking a break because we felt it was important to be down here with the players,” Goodell said. “We both have great respect for the players. This is an important few days. We’re going to get back to work.”
Although most training camps begin in late July, the deal would have to be done at least a week before that, and probably two, to have some semblance of a sufficient free-agency period.
“Obviously, what we are doing on the business side of football on a macro scale is about getting a fair deal done and trying to get back into the game and business of football as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “This event was important to ensure that our young men appreciate how important we think these few days are.
“I’m thrilled that Roger could come down with us and talk to the rookies in a very good, direct way.”
The Associated Press reported owners and players planned to join Goodell and Smith for talks Thursday and Friday. The location is significant because Minneapolis is where the players filed an antitrust suit against the owners and the sides tried and failed to strike an agreement through court-ordered mediation under U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.