The tents are going up in Lehigh. The Hall of Fame game is scheduled to go on. A schedule of what the abbreviated offseason would look like has surfaced.
Yes, football is so close fans can taste it. Teams are preparing as if football is only a few days away from being reinstated, which it is, unless an unforeseen blowup happens (which in negotiations, is always possible).
Today the two sides will meet with Jude Arthur Boylan, with hopes of coming to an agreement. Fresh off of a vacation, it’s hard to imagine that Boylan will leave tomorrows happy unless a deal is in place. Boylan has forced the two sides to work long hours when needed during this lockout, and tomorrow should be no different with a deal so close.
But what needs to happen before the lock on the NovaCare Complex is lifted? Here is a checklist of some the of the key remaining issues.
1. Safety Issues: This issue is perhaps the most contentious one left on the table, as the players want to implement rules that would limit the amount of offseason work outs and in season contact drills. The hope on the players side is to lower the amount of players hurt during training camp and situations other then games. The owners- but mostly the coaches- argue that to truly avoid injury, players must go through these drills to be ready for game speed. While on the surface it appears to be a football issue, this one once again at the heart is about money- the players simply want more protection over possible money lost to injury. While this issue still needs some tinkering, it is not something that is believed to hold up the process of ending the lockout.
2. Settling the Lawsuit: Lost in the endless talks of revenue split and salary cap minimums is a lawsuit that was filed at the beginning of the lockout. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and others sued the NFL when this all began, and the lawsuit will not go away with the end of the lockout. While a settlement is all but assured to be the end to this case, it will be interesting to see what kind of compensation the players receive. The lockout can not end before the case is settled, which is something the lawyers will work on this week during their meetings.
3. Ratify the deal: The owners are meeting this Thursday in Atlanta, and if everything goes to plan, will vote to ratify the new CBA, effectively ending the lockout. In addition, all 32 NFLPA team representatives must vote on the team for the players to officially approve the deal. While an “agreement in principal” could be reached before then, both sides have said that the lockout will not end until both sides vote on it and the document is signed. Once this is completed, there is expected to be a day or two to sort out everything, but the offseason can begin.
As always, make sure to follow @EliotShorrParks on Twitter for up to the minute details and breaking news in what should be the most exciting week of NFL this so far this offseason.