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NFL CBA Seesaw: Deadlines Loom As Negotiations Continue

I had the pleasure of taking a long 4th of July trip overseas. As I was departing, another blow was dealt to the optimistic reports of a handshake agreement possibly being reached by the holiday weekend. What I had hoped to dub ‘Dependence Day' - NFL owners and players realizing their dependence on each other as well as the fans and acknowledging they are risking the quality of NFL football in 2011 with missed offseason preparations and agreeing to cease the madness - never materialized.

And yet I return to the good news of self proclaimed d-dates and firm agreements set for the coming weeks. And yet I fear most of the news is more a display of public relations games than promising reports. As it has been reported by many, including PFT -

But keeping with our mission of sharing with PFT Planet the things we're hearing from our network of sources, we're hearing that an agreement in principle, subject to league and court approval, currently is expected to be announced on July 17.

Whether a new deal is announced on July 17 is a separate question. The story for now is that July 17 has emerged as the potential target.

Oh happy days! With an announcement on the 17th free agency period could be in full swing before Cowboys training camp is set to begin in San Antonio. So far so good.

But wait, there's more...

There are some reports of a later deadline to a CBA agreement in principle. While still optimistic for a July resolution, Matt Mosley suspects Cowboys training camp dates set for San Antonio are in jeopardy.

Numerous reports indicate there's hope that an agreement between the NFL owners and Players Association could be ratified by July 21, with ESPN reporting that that free agency could begin July 28. That makes it hard to believe the Cowboys could hold their first practice July 29th, the date recently reported by the San Antonio Express-News.

The man in charge of the AlamoDome, Mike Sawaya, told the paper the annual kickoff concert had been scheduled for July 28, but two Cowboys sources told me Monday morning that it's hard to imagine that scenario.

Oh, wait, things just got more complicated. The Cowboys may or may not be assuming a scheduled kickoff to training camp in San Antonio the 28th, but uncertainty over a firm date could lead the Cowboys to cancel the away camp and start their offseason work at home in Valley Ranch. While confusing, so far it all still seems like good news. Right?

On the same day all this is being reported, Mike Florio at PFT also runs a piece entitled, "How close is "close"? Making sense of where things stand." Here, an unnamed player's quote seems quite pessimistic by comparison.

"All that is hype coming from the owners side to try and put pressure on us to do a deal," an unnamed player told Pete Prisco of, as Rosenthal pointed out Monday. "They want to make us look bad. It's simply not true. There is a lot of work to be done. They are not close. Consider where that information is coming from, it's the owners. Their reason is to try and create all this false hope to put more pressure on us."

The unnamed player added that he'll be "shocked" if a deal is completed within the next 10 days.

It is getting more and more difficult to determine which reports have sources with factual updates and which are lobbed PR grenades in the public courtroom, not to mention misinformation spread due to legal posturing that has become necessity. For example, as a named source, usually meaning reliable, Drew Breese recently claimed "We're very close to a settlement." However, we have to wonder if all the reports assuming forthcoming announcements aren't being said because of some looming deadlines faced by both parties, including the July 19th court date with Judge Boylan and the July 21st date for the NFL owners meeting. Perhaps the reports are a mix of optimistic deductions and hard-line deadlines that carry serious strategic and legal implications. But however you cut it, the messages are a little mixed, if not promising.

It's enough to make you forget that there are still some serious issues that need to be resolved. While most, of course, concentrate on the progress of negotiations specific to the owners-players revenue split and rookie wage scale, there is often a forgotten battlefront not mentioned in the media that I desperately hope is being discussed...the retired players. While recent retirees many not be in such bad shape, some NFL legends continue to face serious issues due to football related injuries and impairments - guys that built the NFL brand name and never became millionaires.

Ryan Wilson at SB Nation Chicago posted what the great Gale Sayers had to say about recently deceased Hall of Famer John Mackey.

Former NFL Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey died last week of frontotemporal dementia, a condition thought to be brought on by repeated blows to the head associated with playing football. He was 69. Former Bears running back Gale Sayers was one of Mackey's NFL contemporaries, and on Monday, he criticized the NFL and its players for not doing enough to help Mackey.

"You know, John Mackey died at 60-something (69)," said Sayers, according to the Chicago Tribune. "(The NFL) could have helped him more, I felt. But they didn't, and the players (NFLPA) could have helped more, and it didn't happen. ...

"There is no question that the game wouldn't be a game if it wouldn't have been for those people who played in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s and ‘60s. The players today are on our shoulders. They think they made the game the way it is today. And they didn't."

We should all hope the legends are not forgotten as a new NFL CBA is hopefully getting ironed out.

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