Over the last few months, the NFL lockout talks have been contentious at best, with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell engaging in a war of words, both at the bargaining table and in the media. The two have been far from friendly, battling it out for their constituencies while working towards a new collective bargaining agreement. Because of the tension-filled negotiations and ongoing lockout, the two have kept their distance from each other, only coming together in a controlled setting at meetings and the bargaining table.
Until now. On Tuesday, Smith and Goodell hopped in a plane, traveling from Minnesota to the NFL Rookie Symposium. Before a larger group of players and owners arrive in Minnesota for another round of talks, Smith and Goodell put on a united face, in a way, taking questions from rookies at the symposium. NFLPA spokesman George Attalah called the appearance important and said the two fielded poignant questions about the immediate future of the NFL.
"It was important that the players see this is not personal," Atallah said. "It was important that the players see that (Goodell and Smith) can work through their differences in a constructive way, and that hopefully sooner rather than later they'll be playing football."
Thursday marks another important step as the players and owners join the discussion. Until now, Smith, Goodell and a small team of lawyers have been hammering out details at the bargaining table, but now the two will have to present their progress to the masses. If they can convince the larger group that negotiations are headed in the right direction and the key issues have been sufficiently agreed upon, we could end up with football sooner rather than later.
The progress this week is as important as any of the other events that have occurred during the lockout and could go a long way towards restoring order. If all goes well, it may only be a short time before football makes a return after the discouraging lockout and labor dispute.