The Wait And Debate Continues

meetings at the dinner break, saying only, "We're in the middle of it now, we're moving ahead." 

How quickly they move ahead appears to be a balancing act on the part of Tagliabue, who is encountering his toughest task as commissioner. While the owners have said Tagliabue is doing most of the talking, he realizes he might have only one vote left to settle this matter . . . or else. 

He must be careful. 

"He's trying to read the room," Tisch said. "Only he really knows when he wants to put that question out there. 

"But he made it clear to me and the other owners the future of labor relations and player relations will be decided in the next 24 hours." 

If that is the case, then there would seem to be much ground needing to be made up. One source suggested the owners still weren't on the same page. The word "contentious" was being dropped. Shaking heads suggested a lack of progress. 

Tagliabue must judge when to take his final shot, almost as if instructing his troops not to fire until you see the whites of their eyes. Problem is, he's probably seeing a lot of red here. 

Normally in these types of negotiations, especially when a player holds out, I'd say simply wake me up when it's over, because in the end, everything seems to work out. The player always signs. It's just a matter of when. 

Or as a veteran scribe of these NFL wars once told me, negotiations are the same as a cat getting stuck up in a tree. "How many dead cats have you ever found in a tree," he would say, meaning eventually, they safely somehow get down.  <

But these discussions or negotiations - whatever you want to call them - are starting to feel different, and it doesn't seem as if there is just posturing going on. There seems to be a real schism between the owners, and these owners today are more businessmen than football guys. 

Hey, money is important to them. They don't frivolously throw $10 million around, just like they evidently don't make payment on a room if they aren't sure they're staying. 

And for sure, guys like Jones, who rebuilt the Cowboys empire through sheer hustle and marketing savvy, certainly doesn't want to share that elbow-grease revenue with those so-called small market teams who don't put as much effort into generating revenue outside of ticket sales and the money handed them from the NFL's TV contract. 

Can you really blame him? 

Not really sure how much this all means to you guys out there, or if you even care. For most, I'm guessing you'd just rather be told when it's over - if it's ever over - and if there will be a strike in 2008. The league is assured of playing games this year and in 2007. So that doesn't seem so critical. Not now, early March of 2006. 

But this is critical. Could you imagine a league with free agency but no salary cap? 

I guess you could. It's called Major League Baseball. 

The NFL always has been above that, more organized because of their socialistic philosophy. But time is running out. The cat still is up in the tree. And the meowing is starting to get deafening.   

MICK SHOTS

     
  If an agreement is reached here Wednesday, then the start of free agency will be postponed at least another 24 hours.  
  So La'Roi Glover ended up making an astute business decision to roll his dice in free agency instead of reworking the final year of his Cowboys deal. Hey, he was scheduled to be paid a $1.5 million roster bonus, but he ended up signing a three-year, $12 million deal Monday with the St. Louis Rams. That included a $3.5 million signing bonus. So he ended up more than doubling his upfront money. That's good bid-ness. 
  Man, has former Cowboys defensive tackle Brandon Noble been snake bit since signing that free-agent deal with Washington? Repeated knee surgeries, then an infection and now blood

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