Lawyers representing the players and owners wrapped up Wednesday's meetings in New York with reports surfacing that Judge Arthur Boylan, who has mediated talks, is scheduled to go on vacation Saturday.
ESPN first reported that Boylan's vacation is set for Saturday and both sides are committed to negotiate througout the weekend if needed to finish a deal. Boylan has been the mediator since the negotiations resumed in early June. ESPN reported that both sides hope they can craft the "true framework" of a new CBA by Friday.
This week's lawyer-only meetings are reportedly to hammer out details of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement so that when the players and owners settle larger issues, the process can be expedited. ESPN reported that details hashed out on Wednesday included details for free agency and training camps once the lockout ends.
Owners and players are scheduled to rejoin the meetings Thursday and Friday.
Mark Maske of the Washington Post wrote that a handshake deal could come by the end of the weekend or early next week, and that would guarantee a full preseason.
The Bears are scheduled to play the Rams in the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 7. Many people predict that once an agreement occurs, it would take a week or more before NFL business resumes.
A league source told Sports Illustrated's Don Banks that if there is no CBA before July 22, the only preseason game the league would lose is that Hall of Fame game, with the other four full weeks of the preseason to be played.
The way we see it
With news of Boylan's vacation and potential "drop-dead" dates approaching, Thursday and Friday could be the most crucial negotiating sessions to date. While you would hope that the two sides could continue working without Boylan, he has been instrumental in getting everything on the right track. It's crunch time for the two sides. The next two days are important, and the next two weeks could decide if the season starts on time.