Progress being made on the lockout front?

We finally have some good news on the NFL labor front. Maybe.

Apparently, the owners and players have made significant progress in coming toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement during their recent "secret" meetings, and might be closing in on a deal which would allow the NFL to get back to business sometime in the coming weeks.

Why we're even calling these meetings "secret" anymore when everyone following the labor talks knows they're ongoing is beyond me, but we'll ignore that and move on.

Multiple reports state that the owners and the union have specifically made progress when it comes to the division of league revenues, which is the major hurdle that the sides have to overcome. If they can reach an agreement on how the income will be split, the rest might be able to fall into place somewhat easily.

So how will the 2011 league year shape up if a deal is reached sometime soon?

During a normal offseason, players usually take part in OTAs and minicamps through the spring and into June, then get most of July off before heading to training camp late in the month.

We'll have to see if things are structured differently should a CBA get reached by early July.

Will the powers that be decide to shorten training camp and allow for a minicamp session or two, giving the rookies a chance to wet their feet before the chaos of training camp? Will camp be bumped back a bit to give teams time to consider restricted free agents, sign unrestricted free agents and finalize their rosters? That's a process that usually occurs earlier in the offseason, but will certainly need to completed before full team practices begin.

Teams also will have to be allowed time to negotiate with the huge crop of undrafted free agents, players who are currently not under contract with any team. Then there's the supplemental draft, assuming that is written into the new CBA, as expected.

The lockout has created a mess on a number of levels, and even if the sides reach a labor peace soon, there will be obstacles to overcome.

Still, while it's refreshing to hear that the two sides have made strides and are able to sit down at the same table and talk shop without the courts and lawyers being heavily involved, it's important to stress how fragile these negotiations are.

Things could fall apart in a matter of minutes (ESPN is reporting that they nearly did fall apart yesterday), and we could be back to square one, waiting on the courts to weigh in.

We'll just have to keep an eye on these ongoing "secret meetings" - which we know are held in the Maryland area, by the way - and see if anything positive can come out of them.

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