At the beginning of the labor talks, when negotiations were ongoing in Washington, which seems like a galaxy far, far away, I heard from several player sources that owners were playing games during the discussions. The sides would reach a verbal agreement on a part of a new CBA in the morning and then the owners would change their minds and the numbers in the evening. It went this way several times, I'm told.
Those types of games, players familiar with the talks explained, later ceased, and that's when talks took a signifcant positive turn with some sources believing several weeks ago that a deal was 80 percent done and a new CBA was on the horizon. That optimism remained until Thursday.
The NFL will disagree with this. And there is certainly room for debate and the owners will say this is simply negotiating. But in a series of text messages from several sources familair with Thursday's discussions, players say the owners are back to their old tricks.
Again, the NFL will deny this, but I believe it is the owners who are destroying this round of talks, even as the two sides are extremely close. I believe the sources that tell me owners are playing mind games with the players: getting their optimism up and then down hoping the players cave out of frustration.
The players held a conference call on Thursday to discuss the events.
Here's the good news: talks havent broken off. The two sides are still negotiating.
Overall, this was a bad day. That doesn't mean a good day won't soon come but this was not great. I get the feeling despite dealing with owner games in the past, this day caught the players by surprise.
A deal still gets done to save the season, I believe, but as the last media optimist standing, I'm about to leave the room.
Stay tuned. More to come.