Jerry Jones' private jet arrives at a small airport outside Chicago.

In 2011, nothing’s secret. Regardless, attempts at secrecy are notable. And the NFLPA and its locked-out players are suddenly giving the whole clandestine thing a try as the labor mess appears to be reaching a new stage.

Here’s what we know about the not-so-secret talks that have taken place in and around the Chicago area over the last 24 hours:

  • The talks took place Wednesday and Thursday at DuPage Airport in suburban Chicago. The plan, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, was to “lay a foundation to get a deal done later this month.”
  • Both Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith were present, but no other lawyers made appearances. That’s a good thing. Remember: The only people benefiting from this work stoppage are the lawyers. Mediator Arthur Boylan was also present.
  • Owners present: Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, Jerry Richardson, John Mara, and Art Rooney. NFLPA reps present: Kevin Mawae, Mike Vrabel, Tony Richardson, Brian Dawkins and Jeff Saturday.
  • Some NFL owners didn’t even know the talks were taking place, according to Schefter.

Tomorrow is Day 80 of the lockout. It’s also a big day on the litigation side of things, with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals set to hear the league’s appeal of the preliminary injunction to lift the lockout in St. Louis. With mediation slated to officially resume next Tuesday in Minnesota, it’s becoming obvious that the two sides are starting to come to grips with what kind of leverage they’ll have to work with when negotiations officially resume.

So this is probably a step in the right direction. Then again, last time a major sports league held brisk labor talks in a Chicago airport, the NHL lost its entire season.

UPDATE: The NFL and NFLPA have issued a joint statement: “The parties met pursuant to court mediation. Owners and players were engaged in confidential discussions before Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan. The court has ordered continued confidentiality of the mediation sessions.”

(Picture courtesy of Brad Biggs)