With the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals set to hear arguments from both the NFL and NFLPA Friday morning at 10 o’clock, the lawyers representing both sides will be front and center as the league appeals Judge Susan Nelson’s decision to end the lockout in April.

While all eyes are on St. Louis, there was news being made in Chicago, where the NFL and NFLPA were meeting. A session that was extremely private and unannounced to the media included commissioner Roger Goodell flanked by the NFL Senior Ownership group in Jerry Jones (Dallas), Robert Kraft (New England), Jerry Richardson (Carolina), Art Rooney (Pittsburgh) and John Mara (New York Giants). The players were represented by DeMaurice Smith and several player representatives including Kevin Mawae, Domonique Foxworth (Baltimore Ravens), Tony Richardson (New York Jets), Mike Vrabel (Kansas City Chiefs) and Jeff Saturday (Indianapolis Colts).

The agenda of these meeting sessions was not immediately available to the media. As time goes on, items will slowly be leaked. We will find out what went on behind closed doors.

The main reason for these sessions, a source said, “Was Players talking with Owners with no suits (lawyers) involved.” Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, who was appointed to look over the mediations by Judge Nelson in March, continued mid-week with his attendance in Chicago where his job was to keep both sides moving in a positive direction.

The mediation sessions previously scheduled in Minneapolis for June 7th and 8th has been canceled, according to Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal, while both sides work in confidential settlement discussions.

This news came a few hours after the NFLPA and the league released a joint statement confirming both sides met in suburban Chicago. The ownership group flew into a small municipal airport in DuPage, Illinois. Neither side has been able to negotiate a new labor agreement, finding themselves in litigation mode, and not mediation or negotiation mode.

The NFLPA decertified in March when talks broke down, leading to the current lockout. Cancelling the mediation sessions that were to start June 7th is not only is a sign of progress, it is the first step in what could be a long journey. Boylan was quoted as saying, “I believe the two sides can hammer out a deal confidentially.”

I personally hope I’m wrong in my estimation that three regular season games will be missed, but as we creep into June, free agency is still looming, OTA’s have been missed and the rookie symposium was cancelled. The Supplemental Draft is coming up and so are training camps

The next thirty days are vital when referencing the 2011 NFL football season.