All signs point to the NFL lockout ending by the first week of July. The owners and players are meeting at an undisclosed location near Baltimore this week trying to hammer out the framework on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is the 3rd session this month. The talk must be serious because unlike before the location for the meetings has actually been kept secret by all sides. When the media is invited that usually means both sides want to posture and are not really serious about working out a deal. Another positive sign is the owners meeting on Tuesday in Chicago. Several media outlets are reporting the owners have been told by the League office they should be prepared to stay overnight. This can only mean that the owners will be meeting to review a CBA.
If an agreement is reached look for a brief 2 week free agency period in mid July with teams heading to training camp on a near normal schedule. This is all great news for fans. I really don't care that players missed mini-camps and OTA's in April, May and June. I actually think missing some of those off-season events may have opened the eyes of a lot of owners to what life without football would be like. At the end of the day the owners live and die with their teams and the thought of not being able to hang out with the players really struck home for some of the owners. The players also got a feel for what it would be like to not get paychecks. Many players get paid to attend Mini-camps and OTA's. The missed regular season paychecks would be even bigger than the lost wages this spring.
I fully expect to be sitting in the pressbox at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday September 11th watching the Steelers and Ravens. How is that for optimism.