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Negotiations “at the 5-yard line,” but will they fumble?

Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith,

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and National Football League Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, right, exit the Ritz-Carlton hotel to speak to the media after addressing players during the NFLPA rookie symposium on Wednesday, June 29, 2011, in Sarasota, Fla. Goodell and Smith are flying back to Minneapolis together to resume negotiations in the four-month old labor dispute. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

AP

As negotiations to end the NFL lockout continue to progress, all signs are that things are getting close.

But “close” isn’t the same thing as “done,” and there are concerns around the league that something could still go wrong as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA* Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and the key figures for both sides meet again today.

“It does feel like we’re at the 5-yard line, and we’re right there,” one NFL general manager told Don Banks of Sports Illustrated. “But it’s like Jerome Bettis has the ball, and I’ve seen him fumble on the 1-yard line before. If there’s a fumble now, hopefully either Goodell or Smith plays Ben Roethlisberger and stops the whole thing from falling apart.”

Attorneys for both sides met Tuesday and Wednesday to put together the framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and indications are that they made progress but still have plenty of work to do. Over the next two days, Goodell, Smith, five owners and five players will meet.

And we’ll wait and see whether those meetings get the ball into the end zone, or whether they fumble.