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NFL Lockout 2011: Will Cooler Heads Prevail As Talks Intensify?

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Sometimes in negotiations, who handles the negotiations is just as important - if not more so - than what is being negotiated. The choice of personnel both sides are sending to the negotiation table today gives cause for optimism that cooler heads may prevail in the end.

On Monday, New York Giants owner John Mara was the owner's representative at the talks, and will be at the talks again today. Mara is described as a level-headed executive whose experience in complicated business situations is expected to serve both sides well.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt will join the NFL's negotiating team today in the federal mediator's office as they continue to try to work out a new CBA with the NFLPA. Like Giants owner John Mara, Hunt’s family legacy according to ProFootballTalk.com is "is one of compromise and league-first thinking."

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he “personally [believes] it’s possible for the NFL owners and players to reach agreement on a new labor deal before Friday's deadline. Kraft, currently on a business trip in Israel, said that he might have to head back early if "the Commissioner of the NFL [told him] that he'd appreciate [Kraft's] presence". While Kraft has been consistently (over-) optimistic in the negotiations, at least publicly, he does have a lot of influence with his fellow owners.

As reported by NFL.com's Albert Breer, Kraft last week reiterated a point he had been making throughout, that it was "time to the get the lawyers out of the room" and "let the business people do a deal."

Not present at the talks are Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, two of the more hawkish owners in the NFL labor committee. Also missing from the negotiating table both yesterday and today is Jeffrey Kessler, described as the "divisive" outside counsel for the NFLPA.

Perhaps this is a sign that both sides are coming closer to reaching an agreement. Perhaps it's all part of a good cop, bad cop routine. But it may also be a sign that key principals from both sides have given up on the process. Who knows?

"By no means are we in the clear," Temple University sports-labor law professor Jeremi Duru said. "There still may be a labor war. At best, I'd be cautiously optimistic."

Yep. Cautiously optimistic. That's me.