NFL Lockout: Despite Conflicting Reports, Deal Could Be Reached Soon

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) executive director DeMaurice Smith (R) and Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday (L) talk with the media following meetings at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building March 11, 2011 in Washington, DC. Representatives from the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) failed to reach an agreement before their deadline. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

It really depends on who you believe (or don't believe).

And in this case, lots of people are piling on FOX sports' Jay Glazer not because his work as an MMA trainer possibly conflicts with his job reporting news about NFL teams and players, but because ole Jay is reporting news that is counter to what everyone else is chirping about on the NFL labor front.

First, the good news.

NFL Network's Albert Breer has been all over this lockout story. His reporting has been excellent. Last night, he tweeted these critical updates, and posted this story:

Filed to NFL Network: NFL owners & players are arriving in Minneapolis to re-join talks on Thursday. Legal teams have met last 3 days here.

... So Thursday's negotiations, at a Minneapolis area law firm, will include Goodell, Smith, players, owners and legal teams for each side.

... The sides aren't scheduled to meet Friday, but are prepared to continue meetings into Friday if necessary.

Putting the pieces together ... Owners, players flying in seems to be very encouraging news. Legal teams have traded proposals this week.

Owners and players gathering in Minnesota, the very state where federal court judge Susan Nelson resides. The same judge who is presiding over the Brady v. NFL lawsuit. Thus, if both sides are there to negotiate a settlement, they could file the paperwork quickly and get on with the business of entertaining us fans with football.

We also have news that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell flying to the rookie symposium (which is organized by the NFLPA*) and talking to the rookies in attendance.

So, with Breer's report, and with Goodell taking time to go to the rookie symposium seemingly as a show of good relations between the owners and players, all signs point to a deal getting done very soon. So, why is Jay Glazer reporting on secret meetings between the players about how a deal 'is not even close?' And more importantly, should we believe these reports?

I'm not saying Glazer is lying in his report. I might not think highly of Glazer's ethics as a 'journalist,' but that might be because he doesn't view himself as one. He's an information guy, pure and simple. NFL coaches, players, and owners talk to him, and he writes about what they say. Nothing more complicated to it than that. Glazer isn't someone like Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, digging up dirt on corrupt college football programs. Glazer's a mouthpiece. Nothing more.

So, when he reported last night that DeMaurice Smith held a call on Tuesday with 50 Pro Bowlers and telling them that a deal is not close, many people in the business took that report as not something Glazer 'found out about' via investigative journalism. The sense most people have about the report is people (aka, Smith and the NFLPA*) intentionally leaked it to Glazer the news about the call so he could write about it in an effort to send a message to owners who might be trying to exploit the current situation.

As Mike Florio at PFT notes, many reliable and reputable media people, who have done a great job covering this lockout, simply don't buy news that a deal isn't close.

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

So De Smith telling players a deal isn't close. I don't buy it. He's just acting like a tough guy.

Albert Breer

Can't believe the hysterics I'm seeing here on the CBA talks. Calm. Down. Folks.

Mike Freeman, CBS Sports

My man Jay Glazer is one of the best but I still think D-Smith is trying to play us. He knew details of call would leak, right?

Freeman went on to write an article outlining why this game of spin is getting played out at this point [emphasis mine]:

The snag in talks, as first reported by ProFootballTalk.com and confirmed by me, is that the owners are playing head games with the players. Wrote the website: " ... deal could have been done a week or two ago, but the owners have been playing games with some of the numbers, possibly relying upon the emergence and strengthening sense that the players are ready to get a deal done in order to squeeze the players on some of the smaller issues."

I've heard the same thing. So Smith is attempting to elbow the owners back by having two conference calls with players. The first was about a week ago with a number of players and then came the most recent one.

Again, Smith is smart. He knows the media will find out the details of these calls so he plants information that the deal isn't close -- remember close is in the eye of the beholder -- as a way of letting the owners know the players won't roll over even when a deal is within striking distance.

It's genius, really. Absolute genius.

There you have it. Freeman basically says that Smith (or someone else with knowledge within the NFLPA*) leaked the news with Glazer (because that's what people do with Glazer) so that the FOX Sports info man could report on it as a way to send a message to the owners who are, according to Freeman and PFT, trying to 'squeeze the players on some of the smaller issues.'

This is the world of professional football, folks! It's not a sport. It's an entertainment industry... both on and off the field.

At the end of the day, I think things will shake out exactly the way Pete Prisco tweeted about two days ago:

My prediction: Two sides agree on handshake deal Friday -- to set up the country for a good July 4 weekend. You watch. That's the NFL way

I'll call it right now: Look for news here on this site sometime tomorrow about the NFL owners and players agreeing to a handshake deal on a new CBA.

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