Oh leverage, where would we be without you? Probably without football in September.

Like the wise parent and/or accountant who tells us to save money for a day when it’s pouring rain and we evidently have little else to do but spend money, DeMaurice Smith tucked some cash away for the players last summer.

That money may have actually talked to the owners during this week’s negotiations. We can’t confirm this, but it probably called Roger Goodell a puppet, which would have seemed incredibly confusing coming from a stack of money. Or maybe it just told the owners that the players can survive a prolonged work stoppage.

That’s the dot-connecting Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter did when he reported earlier this afternoon that Smith revealed to the owners during Thursday’s meeting that a $200,000 lockout insurance policy was secured for each player. That’s a lot of cash spread throughout the league (nearly $300 million), and it showed that Smith and his posse could be quite serious about holding out into the preseason, and an August without football would tap into the owners’ sacred revenue stream.

As Trotter writes, the owners’ perception that the players would fold once they started missing paychecks in September may have been thoroughly dented.

The common perception has been that the players’ solidarity would crumble once they started missing paychecks. However the foundation beneath that line of thinking would be as solid as Jell-O if the players could couple the insurance with a large financial award from U.S. District Judge David Doty, who previously ruled the owners had illegally created a $4.3 billion lockout fund for themselves by renegotiating their TV deals at the expense of the players.

The unanswered questions in this report are numerous, such as where exactly this money came from, and what company would grant such a large policy to 32 teams with athletes who could suffer training injuries at any time.

But hey, if this is what broke the stalemate, we’ll take it. I’d much rather begin a full-fledged over-hyping of players who look like Pro Bowlers in their training camp shorts than write the word “lockout” ever again.

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