Mike Freeman

WASHINGTON D.C. — This is how quickly the labor situation is changing. It changes by the day, the hour, the minute.

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Early Saturday afternoon two players and one management source stated the two sides were in a “staring contest.” Progress was chugging along slowly.

Then, later Saturday, a breakthrough. One high ranking member of the trade association said so much progress was made that a deal was near. Player reps, I’m told, believe a deal is near.

Now, we’ve heard this before, but this time — hopefully — it’s true.

One thing that’s certain is that Saturday was a highly productive one after a slow few days in which it looked like a deal might take longer than expected.

The player source said it was unclear if a vote was near but thought one might come within the next 24-48 hours. He reiterated a deal wasn’t done yet but it was close. So close executive committee might vote as soon as Sunday but felt Monday was more likely.

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The negotiations can and have turned quickly from hopeful to dire and back again. They appear to be in the much more hopeful stage now. Very hopeful.

Lawyers for the players and owners appeared to have made major breakthroughs on a number of issues including one of the more complicated .The problem centered on the timing of players reconstituting as a union. It was a complicated mix but basically came down to this. The owners say the players can reconstitute in the blink of an eye using electronic means thus expediting the start of the NFL year. Then, once the union is reformed, they can finish negotiating other workplace type issues like drug testing.

The players, I’m told, didn’t believe that was the real reason the owners desired them to recreate the union easily and quickly. If the players did as the owners desired, the players thought, the owners would use that against them in future talks. The owners would attempt to kill the Brady antitrust case and the next time players and owners went through a labor dispute the owners would again claim decertification as a sham. Except then they’d have more ammunition if the players reconstituted quickly.

Which is why the union insisted on having players sign cards attesting to recertification instead of electronically. It’s a more deliberate process and leaves the union less vulnerable to accusations its metamorphosis from union to trade association and back again isn’t a sham.

There’s also the fact that becoming a union now negates all player leverage for CBA related issues, and there were a number of them, including one that hasn’t been mentioned much in the media. The players want more doctor/trainer oversight over medical issues. Some players still feel that doctors and trainers look out for the interests of teams instead of the interests of players first.

Apparently the owners and players were able to solve this and many others issues. The lack of trust that existed just a matter of hours and days ago was restored.

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Football peace is right around the corner?