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Talks continue today, with skeleton crew


Last Thursday, when it appeared that the labor negotiations were teetering on the brink of implosion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan got the parties refocused, keeping them around until after 1:00 a.m. ET.

By all counts, significant progress was made.

But the following morning included a fairly short session, with limited (and that’s a stretch) actual negotiations. Then, the parties shut down the face-to-face talks for the Fourth of July weekend, leaving the lawyers to try to hash out the paperwork that eventually would be signed and submitted to the federal court in Minnesota if/when a settlement is reached.

Though the process of drafting the documents is critical, especially in light of the various player-friendly terms the pre-asterisked NFLPA slipped through the league’s five hole in 2006, haggling over specific contents of the CBA is irrelevant until there’s a consensus on the big issues.

Today, the talks resume with only the lawyers, who will be working directly on the wherefores and heretofores and hereinafters and hereinbeforetofores. It previously was believed that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith would be present. Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that they won’t return until Thursday.

At this critical juncture, that’s unfortunate. At a minimum, the leaders of the respective camps should be supervising their schools of blue-suited sharks, especially in light of the growing belief that the players’ lawyers want nothing more than to fire a bullet into the 2011 season’s oxygen tank.

Bottom line? This deal won’t get done until the key figures are present. And with the key figures not scheduled to return for 48 more hours, here’s hoping that they’re willing to spend the bulk of the ensuing 48 hours on putting this thing to bed.