The offseason is all about hope. Fans hope that their teams will finally make the playoffs. GMs and coaches hope that the guy they traded up for last April pans out. And this offseason in particular, owners and players are hoping that Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith can solve the labor impasse, end the lockout and give fans all they really want: football.
Various reports suggest that there could be a new collective bargaining agreement by mid-July, which will make for a frenzied, abbreviated free agency period, but means that training camps and the season start on time. Sports Illustrated's Peter King reports that we're one step closer to that reality.
"DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA executive director, asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to speak at the NFLPA rookie symposium, and Goodell agreed," King wrote Tuesday evening. "The commissioner's appearance is scheduled for Wednesday morning at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Sarasota, Fla. The symposium, titled The Business of Football: Rookie Edition, is being held at the IMG Academy in nearby Bradenton, Fla."
Smith and Goodell were both in Minnesota Tuesday, meeting one on one without players or owners present. It was the first of four days of labor meetings. According to King, Smith and Goodell left town on the same flight Tuesday night, headed for Florida.
"The plan is for Goodell to speak at the symposium around 8 a.m. Wednesday, then Smith and Goodell immediately will fly back to Minneapolis and reconvene meetings with Judge Arthur J. Boylan after lunchtime," King said.
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It's the latest indication that Smith and Goodell, adversaries at various stages of the labor proceedings, have found common ground and are genuinely working to end the lockout.
King adds that "None of this should mask the fact that the two sides still have significant progress to make after multiple meetings in different parts of the country. One player representative told SI.com recently that he'd been told by the union that a deal is not imminent. But the signs continue to be good with meaningful dialogue and concessions from both sides apparently happening."
While CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote Tuesday that "This coming week, various league and player sources have told me, might be the most important of this fight. This week could determine when this labor fight finally ends." Freeman added that "There is one difference about this week of negotiating, I'm told, and it's an interesting one. Both Goodell and Smith feel like they've been handed more respective authority to make an agreement on behalf of their constituents; Goodell on behalf of the owners and Smith on behalf of the players."
At the very least, it's progress. And progress means hope.
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