NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was busy on a conference call with the incoming rookies when a government mediator was assigned to stand between the NFL and the NFLPA to help work a deal prior to midnight on March 3, the deadline for the CBA.

Smith addressed the draft class of 2011, and his message was, “There will be a lockout, I’m 100 percent sure of it. The owners have been preparing for this day since they opted out of the current deal in 2008.” The bottom line is these draftees are joining an elite fraternity of men and football players, and they are getting a crash course on the business of the NFL and how the NFLPA works to protect their members.

While that conference call was taking place, George Cohen, the Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) announced that the NFL and NFLPA are both willing to come back to the table, and was preparing for the meeting scheduled for Friday. With a mediator in place, both sides have agreed to seven straight days of meetings that begin early Friday morning.

“I have had separate, informal discussions with key representatives of the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association during the course of their negotiations for a successor collective bargaining agreement,” Cohen said in a written statement.

He went on to say, “Due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations and consistent with the FMCS’s long-standing practice, the agency will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule and/or the status of those negotiations until further notice.”

After the announcement that the FMCS was taking over and helping with the negotiations, the NFLPA released a statement, saying, “The NFLPA has always focused on reaching a fair collective bargaining agreement through negotiations. We hope that this renewed effort, through mediation, will help the players and owners reach a successful deal.” The NFL spokesman confirmed the agreement to participate in mediation, but declined further comment.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service is a federal agency that was created in 1947 to promote cooperative labor resolutions. Cohn has been on the job just over a year, having been appointed to the position in October of 2009.

So I called a high school friend of mine that is a graduate of Dartmouth and is presently practicing law in Philadelphia.

He said, “The practice of mediation as used in law is a form of ADR (alternate dispute resolution – Divorce, Conciliation, Conflict Resolution, Dispute Resolution, Mediation, Online Dispute Resolution, Negotiation, Party-Directed Mediation, Litigation and Restorative Justice) which includes Arbitration and Collaborative Law. It’s a way of resolving disputes between two parties. The third party is the mediator; their job is to assist the parties and keep the negotiations moving. At times they might express a viewpoint, but not favorable to either party.”

He also stated that mediation must have structure, a timetable and dynamics that regular negotiations lack. As Cohen said in so many words, “This process is private and confidential.” His main focus within the structure is to improve and force continued dialogue between both parties, while remaining impartial regardless of his personal thoughts. Most of the time, mediators are used in union vs. corporation disputes and this is why he was brought in to help push both sides to the finish line.

They have 14 days till zero hour is reached, and on the early morning of March 4, reality will hit all involved from ground keepers to receptionists, general managers to players, head coaches to NFL owners. But the most affected by this mad squabble over total football revenue are the fans.