MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 17: NFL players' lawyers Jeffrey Kessler, James Quinn and Barbara P. Berens walk with former NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith after leaving court ordered mediation at the U.S. Courthouse on May 17, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As the NFL lockout remains in place mediation was ordered after a hearing on an antitrust lawsuit filed by NFL players against the NFL owners after labor talks between the two broke down in March. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
If you're superstitious, this is the week to spill salt, spit twice, stay away from ladders and black cats, and do everything you can to send good vibes to the NFL players and owners, as this may be the most critical week of negotiations since the lockout started in March.
To avoid missing any pre-season games -- and losing the money that comes with the pre-season -- the two sides need to come to an agreement by July 15, which is next Friday. To get closer to this goal, they spent much of the holiday weekend in negotiations, and the lawyers are meeting Tuesday and Wednesday.
The owners and players reps will join in later this week, meaning that we could be on way to a deal that will give football a complete season.
But there is still plenty of ground to be covered, and talks like these can be blown apart over perceived slights. There is also a chance that retired players could detonate talks with their latest lawsuit. A group of retired players that includes Marcus Allen, Carl Eller and Franco Harris have filed a suit against both the players and the owners to ensure that their needs are being addressed at the negotiating table.
Reports on the proposed collective bargaining agreement says that the players and owners are, in fact, concerned about the retired players. Concessions on the rookie wage scale will go towards the retired players' legacy fund, meaning that money that was once given to unproven rookies will now go towards the men who helped build the NFL into what it is today.
Concessions like that are exactly what are needed to ensure that the season starts without a hitch. The stakes are bigger for the Bears than for most teams. The season needs to start on time for the Bears to be able to play both in the Hall-of-Fame Game on August 7 and to take a trip to London to play the Bucs in October.
So break out your talisman, rub a rabbit's foot and look for every lucky penny you can find. Football needs it.