Last night, I smoked a victory cigar and drank a victory beer (and eventually took a celebration piss) after the NFL and the NFLPA* worked out the thorny problem of the rookie wage scale. With the most difficult issues now in the bag, it should be easy to work out all remaining disputes.
Key words: Should be.
The cork remains in the bottle of Dom Perignon because there’s no deal until there’s a deal. And every time the owners think a deal is inevitable, they tend to harden their position on the remaining issues, under the mistaken impression that the players will cave.
That’s precisely what could happen today. Albert Breer of NFL Network lists some of the remaining issues: the so-called “Legacy Fund” for retired players, the right-of-first-refusal tags for free agents in 2011, the issue player safety, and issues relating to litigation, both now and in the future.
If the owners — and now nine of the 10 members of the labor committee are present — cross their arms and wait for the players to blink, the process will bog down until the owners realize the players won’t blink. And then a couple more days will go by until the owners accept that the players won’t blink, and then they’ll finally work out the remaining issues.
Either way, the broader time line seems to be set in something close to stone. They’ll meet with the mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, in Minneapolis on Tuesday, and the 32 owners will meet in Atlanta on Thursday, hopefully (as first reported by ESPN on Monday) to vote on the agreement in principle.
Whether and to what extent football fans will be celebrating that agreement in principle at any point over the coming weekend remains to be seen. But don’t be surprised if talks slow down again on Friday, as the owners hope that the players will agree to anything in the hopes of striking an agreement on everything.