Rosenthal opted not to speculate earlier tonight regarding the possible reasons for the reported Chicago-area meeting involving several owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell. But since I just sat through a three-hour, thirty-minute Team PFT baseball game that went into two extra innings (we lost 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth), I had plenty of time to try to connect the dots.
For starters, the various owners who reportedly attended — Pats owner Robert Kraft, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and Panthers owner Jerry Richardson — are members of the team negotiating a new labor deal. So (and excuse us while we venture far onto a limb here) the meeting most likely was related to the ongoing labor dispute.
The next lockout-related development comes on Friday, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit takes up arguments regarding whether the lockout will be lifted. But there’s nothing for the owners to do at this point; it’s a matter that’s currently in the hands of the lawyers.
On Monday, June 6, the NFL must formally respond to the complaint in the Tom Brady antitrust action. That’s another function for the lawyers, which will require little or no direct input from owners — and definitely not a full-blown sit-down.
On Tuesday, June 7, mediation is scheduled to continue in Minneapolis, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan. It could be, then, that the negotiating team got together to make specific decisions for approaching the next set of talks. If the two judges who have ruled both in favor of a temporary stay and a full stay send signals via their questions and comments making clear their willingness to allow the lockout to remain in place, the players could be softened up and ready to be receptive to a significant move by the NFL closer to its bottom-line position.
Given that the full ownership met last week in Indianapolis and in light of the requirement that at least 24 of them must approve any offers made to the players, it could be that the owners voted in Indy to give Goodell and the negotiating team a new ceiling of authority, and that the negotiating team met separately to come up with a plan for using it once mediation resumes in six days.
Whatever the specific reason for the clandestine Chicago-area meeting, it had to be something sufficiently important to justify a face-to-face session, and not a conference call.
UPDATE: Well, there goes our theory. Per multiple reports, NFLPA* officials also were present, converting what appeared to be a strategy session into a negotiating session. It remains to be seen whether any progress was made.