According to the 2011 NFL schedule, the season is set to kick off 90 days from now. We're in the middle of a lockout, so any future plans are written in pencil.
But rumblings indicate that the lawyer-free discussions between owners and players are going so well that, for the first time since the lockout began in March, there's legitimate hope for a 2011 season.
NFL Network's Albert Breer, appearing on Friday's Total Access, explained that while there's still a long way to go, the two sides have made substantial progress in recent weeks. Here are the highlights of Breer's conversation with TA host Rich Eisen.
- Eisen: If it's so good that both sides are talking … then why aren't they talking around the clock … until this thing is all hammered out?
Breer: Just like doing a CBA is complex, the negotiating to get there is also complex. There are a couple things at work here. One is, all the talking isn't happening face-to-face. In fact, I was told that the two sides communicated today so they are communicating outside of the face-to-face negotiations.
That's one thing that's important to remember. The other thing that's important to remember is how much work goes into this. It's going to be about a 300-page CBA when it's all said and done. A lot of research and study has to go into it from each side, especially after they come off these face-to-face talks. I was told by someone earlier today that about five hours of work goes into every hour they spend face-to-face.
So it's not that they're not working, it's just that the format of it is a little bit different in different stages. But they are working a lot of hours to get this thing done and I think that anybody who would view it any other way might be a little off there.
- Eisen: Normally we see the round-the-clock stuff when it's the 11th hour. … Should we take this to mean that both sides don't consider this the 11th hour?
Breer: It's not quite the 11th hour yet. … I think what they're working towards right now is that July 15 deadline … when the holdup in these negotiations could wind up costing them preseason games. I think they want to try to get something done by then. …
I think both sides view themselves as having about a 30-day window of opportunity to get something done. Now, I'm told that they will meet again next week and continue to stack these meetings one after another all the way into mid-July. And that's great news because it means they're working toward that deadline. And I think the round-the-clock stuff might occur once we get closer to that mid-July deadline.
- Eisen: Do you get the sense, from the people that you've been speaking to on both sides, that the CBA must be completed 100 percent … before this lockout is lifted, or perhaps some deal in principle can be struck earlier on … and the lockout ends while the lawyers hash this thing out?
Breer: [Both sides] have a lot of work to do, and they'd have to be pretty far down the road, but the truth is it's always the league's option to lift the lockout. They could do it now if they wanted to. So I think if they feel like, in good faith, they've reached an agreement on the framework of a deal, it would make sense for them to get that administrative stuff out of the way. Have a … short period before free agency for teams to take care of their own house, then have free agency, then have that roll into training camp. If that's what's in the best interest of everybody, I'm sure that could happen.
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