The NFL lockout has been frustrating and debilitating for football fans everywhere. It is too early to know whether or not there is permanent damage done. As we have begun June, it has looked less and less like there would ever be an agreement between the players and owners because of the rhetoric in the media and the litigation. However, there is reason to believe that there is light at the end of the dark work stoppage tunnel, albeit an ever so dim light for now.
Friday is set for the court hearing that deals with the lockout and the validity of it. There was scheduled mediation to take place next week. However, Wednesday and Thursday morning there have been face-to-face settlement meetings between the players and the owners. The only lawyer present was player rep and attorney DeMaurice Smith.
These "secret" meetings occurred without most owners knowing until today and were overseen by Judge Boylan, who was overseeing the mediation mandated by Judge Susan Nelson.
According to NFL Network reporter Albert Breer, these settlement meetings mean something. It means that the NFL is making concessions to have court supervision of the negotiations and that they are "acknowledging the validity of the antitrust case." He tweets that "in 1993, the last time issues this serious existed, the NFL and players reached a 'settlement'. Terms of the next CBA were in it."
He is careful to say that it is short of CBA negotiations, but it is not far off.
The result is that the two parties have apparently made enough progress to cancel mediation sessions to continue in settlement talks, which should, in turn, lead to a new CBA, the end of the lockout and the start of the offseason and all that comes with that (free agency, trades, contract extensions, training camp, etc).
We have been hopeful before, but it looks, at least for now that a corner has either been turned or that it is about to be turned. We can only hope that this hope is not in vain.