Have owners held back terms in anticipation of renewed talks?

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The threshold question for Tuesday’s session between the NFL and NFL Players Association in Indianapolis is this: Will the NFL say “we have nothing more to discuss” or will the NFL show some flexibility? Embedded within the latter question is a more fascinating one.

Has the NFL deliberately held back terms in anticipation of this development? Sure, the members of the Management Council Executive Committee will huff and puff and grumble and harumph about opening the terms of a deal that in their view is already done. But they also may talk about how they want to have a true partnership with players and a win-win-win arrangement so they’ll see what they can do, but they’re not optimistic that anything can be done.

And then the owners, after an appropriate delay that suggests actual deliberation, will trot out the terms that they’ve already planned to offer at this stage of the proceedings, aimed at letting the NFLPA feel like it has fought for more and won.

This is all speculation, but it wouldn’t be a surprise that’s what actually goes on. The league has been curiously silent about this process, saying nothing on or off the record as the NFLPA began the process of talking about the current deal that has been negotiated over a period of 10 months. This suggests that the league likes how things are going, and that things are indeed going as planned. As Peter King pointed out during Monday’s PFT Live, none of the owners had anything to say as they exited Thursday’s session at the Conrad Hotel in New York that resulted in a carefully-crafted statement that seemingly put the players in checkmate.

But maybe it wasn’t checkmate. Maybe it was simply check, inviting the players to make their own move that they would believe places the owners in checkmate. Then, the owners reluctantly will concede, the deal will be done, and the owners will quietly know that, in this particular game of chess, the side that hears the magic word is actually the side that has won.