At a time when many are waiting for and anticipating a news deal between owners and the NFL Players Association, there was a time Tuesday when talks clearly regressed.
One person close to the talks even went so far as to say, "This almost blew up yesterday."
How close it did is a matter of opinion. Fact is, the moment came shortly after lawyers from both sides were brought back into the process at an undisclosed location in the Washington, D.C., area. As tensions rose and anger grew, two sources said NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith instructed his lawyers to "stand down."
With the lawyers removed from the direct negotiations, the process was said to get back on track and to a good spot. The scenario is an example of just how tenuous these talks can be and how quickly they can be derailed.
But it also is the ultimate proof that Smith and his players, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners have taken the process out of the hands of the attorneys and demanded that they control it as the two sides try to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.
During negotiations in the winter, many around the league worried that the lawyers were controlling the process. But Tuesday's events are the strongest evidence to date that they are not.