I think it's reasonable to think the NFL Lockout ends today -- at the latest, over the weekend. Teams will open doors on Sunday; full-blown free-agent mania will start middle of next week.
Last night, the owners did what they were supposed to: They approved a deal -- before the players -- then sent it to the players with all the pressure in the world to simply sign it.
It's a bit of a bullying tactic and the players are right to be slightly skeptical. But De Smith would not have walked out of a meeting with Roger Goodell with a deal framework if he wasn't OK with the deal the owners were about to sign.
If Goodell materially changed the framework behind Smith's back, of course, the players should be mad. But I suspect that they will ultimately approve the deal.
It was one last turn of the screw by the owners -- it's who they are, they can't help themselves -- and the players will gripe (as they are entitled to), but then sign it and get back to the job.
The p.r. value of the owners' agreement last night is evident: Fans simply want football to return, and suddenly the owners are on the right side of that; the players aren't yet.
I hope the players carefully weigh the deal before agreeing to it, but it would be very odd if Smith created a framework the owners were fine with signing, then the deal was changed substantially.
The upshot is that despite a ripple of "uh-oh" last night, the players seem on track to vote on the deal today -- I presume they will approve. And football returns this weekend.
More on the radar:
*SEC Media Days: Alabama is the pick to win the league (no controversy there), and South Carolina is picked to win the East (no controversy there, either).
*Can we get some justice in the Bryan Stow case already? Let's hope they have the right perpetrators this time.
*Pistons hire Lawrence Frank: There is no job security like being in the NBA "fired-head-coaches" re-tread bin.
*James Shields > CC Sabathia. That the Rays continue to contend this season is overlooked by the Pirates' miraculous situation. But don't count out Tampa in the Wild Card race. As always, anyone without a different rooting interest in the AL East should be rooting for the Rays to knock out either the Red Sox or Yankees (it almost doesn't matter which).
*Tiger Woods' break-up with Steve Williams, cont'd: Should Tiger be concerned about Williams' purported "tell-all" book? It's not like Tiger can be any more humiliated than he already has been, right? (Even if Williams adds salacious details, that story has already been told.)
*I love that the Raiders were the only team to abstain from voting affirmatively on the new labor agreement. That team is the best.
The best takes on the NFL Lockout, in near-real-time, on Quickish today, along with the usual selection of terrific stories and best breaking analysis.