That ticking sound you hear isn't the countdown clock on the left side of the margin when you navigate your way over to BTB. That's the sound of keyboards and touch screens feverishly reporting the news as it oozed into public domain. On the eve of the lockout injunction appeal hearing in the 8th Circuit Court in St. Louis, word leaked that the NFL and the NFLPA had engaged in, what would later be revealed as, settlement talks. The sides were scheduled to enter another round of mediation under Judge Arthur Boylan on Tuesday of next week. For two sides that have taken every opportunity to speak through the media, the surprise revelations throughout the day have (unfortunately) been the most excitement NFL followers have had since the draft.
If you haven't kept up with the FanShot section, you may have missed this notification from BlueNSilverBlood. News first leaked that there was a subset of owners gathering in Chicago in advance of today's St. Louis hearing. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune and National Football Post had this to say.
The stars on tail of Jones' aircraft were a dead giveaway and FAA registration confirmed Kraft's ownership of plane.
Following that news, came word that Commissioner Roger Goodell had joined the meeting of the Power 5: Jerry Jones, Kraft, Carolina's Jerry Richardson, Giants' Mara and Steelers Rooney. Things got even more interesting when word came out that NFLPA lawyer DeMaurice Smith was in attendance at the meetings as well.
Also can add that a number of players accompanied DeMaurice Smith to the secret meeting in Chicago with the commish, owners.
Players too? Now we're talking. What's that? There's more?
I can confirm US Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan has been in attendance at the Chicago meetings.
Well that tidbit took a little out of the steam that was building, hoping that the league and the players had sat back and said, what the heck are we thinking. The inclusion of the judge was later discovered to be the judge ordering the two sides to meet again. All was not bleak though, as more news was still to come.
The NFLPA would release a statement on the talks, after the news had started swirling around the web and twitter.
It reads ... "Whereas, The Court has been engaged in confidential settlement discussions involving the above captioned matter ..."
(cont): "... it deems it appropriate to cancel the mediation session previously scheduled in Minneapolis for June 7 and June 8."
Settlement discussions? Now that sounds promising. Turns out that CBA that was put into effect in 1993, the one that outlined free agency, was structured during settlement discussions. Word soon followed that the meeting was sans lawyers, just the meat and potatoes players. That gives the appearance of a true representation of the sides beliefs, although you know each side is coached well.
Conjecture on the meaning of the settlement follows, with none of it appearing as more than theoretical. The owners could be admitting that the antit-trust case has some validity. The Player's Association could be seen as acting as a union by engaging in the talks. It could be nothing more than Judge Boylan trying to stir the drink. Some players though, did come out of the meeting with a positive outlook, and that's got to count for something. Today's hearing could open the NFL back for business, although the conservative bench is expected to keep the locks on. This settlement talk, however, could actually be the workings of both sides understanding that time is running out on saving the 2011 season.