Bears fans, we're so close. So, so, so close. In fact, I'm writing what I hope will be the last of our lockout update before the yay-the-lockout-is-over-let's-celebrate-and-sign-free-agents updates start. But the lockout is still going on, so update I will, as champagne* chills in the cooler for the celebration.
-- The owners meetings in Atlanta start on Thursday. The hope is that the full group of 32 owners will ratify the agreement, and get briefed on it so that the insane free agency period can start next week. And insane will be the only word for it. A process that usually takes months will be squeezed into weeks. Draft picks, free agents and undrafted free agents will all have to be signed in this time.
-- One of the issues that has to be dealt with is the repayment of $320 million worth of benefits to not only players, but coaches, who were denied them in the uncapped season of 2010. Assistant coaches -- a group who is not represented by any union -- were denied 401(k) contributions in 2010, and players were not given retirement benefits, supplemental health plans, tuition reimbursement, etc. If this isn't addressed in the current collective bargaining agreement, it will be addressed in the federal "lockout insurance case."
-- The other big lawsuit-y thing remaining is the antitrust case that Tom Brady, Drew Brees, et al. filed against the owners at the beginning of the lockout. The suit could be settled, but two of the named plaintiffs, Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins, are pushing for extra compensation or are asking to be named unrestricted free agents. Both sat out part of last season in a contract squabble, and could make the case that the NFL's hold on football prevented them from working.
-- There's still no definitive answer on the Hall-of-Fame game. David Haugh argues in the Chicago Tribune that it should be canceled.
-- Though that game is up in the air, the Bears are confident that the season at Soldier Field will go on as expected. Single-game tickets will go on sale Thursday at 11 a.m. for both the pre-season and regular season games.
*More likely the champagne of beers.