I was optimistic that the season wouldn't be affected when the owners won the last round of court decisions, for reasons I outlined here.
Though some report - and this is hotly debated - that the deadlock was broken when players revealed that they had a secret $200,000 per man insurance fund to get them through missing 2011 paychecks. That crucial owner leverage negated, any chances of breaking the players completely went off the table and The Man began feeling rather amenable:
It's one of the reasons that slightly more than a year ago he received approval from the executive committee to secure insurance that would pay each player roughly $200,000 if there were no football in 2011. Smith disclosed the fund to only a handful of people outside of the executive committee. However with negotiations seemingly at a standstill late Wednesday night, the decision was made to play one of their aces in the hole. So in the relative quiet of the sides' New York City bargaining room the next morning, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth informed the owners of the previously secret lockout fund.
If true, DeMaurice Smith executed a master stroke by convincing the players to steel the soft underbelly of their bargaining position over a year ago. Keep your eye on Mr. Smith. I expect we've not seen the last of him on the public stage.
If you follow this SBNation newsfeed, it's apparent that the deal is all but done. The revenue pie has been split in principle and this is the central issue. Lawyers will be pouring over documents this weekend and, barring last moment language battles, we might see this all wrapped up and put to vote by week's end.
Expect the players to end up with just under 50% of the revenue pie, a vastly altered rookie pay scale, and increased veteran benefits.
Unfortunately, we may see the NFL regular season expanded to 18 games from 16 as a means of growing the pie and I think that's terrible news for the game, fans, player health, and the overall quality of the product.