NFLPA spokesman George Atallah doesn’t think that marathon runners hear much cheering on the 25th mile of a race. Instead, he thinks they’re greeted with the wildest applause while approaching the finish line.

This little analogy may be true, although we very much prefer Jerry Jones’ beautiful mosquito circumcision imagery. Even though Atallah seems to enjoy a nice dip in cold water, the players and owners are quickly approaching that finish line, a beeline that continued today. In honor of the sprint to the finish, we’d like to see Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith dress up as though they’re in Phil Simms’ workout video, and playfully lunge across an outstretched white ribbon as the final documents are signed later this week. At the very least it’ll make for a much better alternate cover for this year’s Madden game.

We’re in a time of continuous major development on the labor front as the clock ticks down to Thursday’s owners meetings in Atlanta, a date when a new CBA will likely be ratified. Earlier today the first major development came from a memo circulated by the league to all 32 teams asking for at least one executive to be present at a labor seminar Friday. Assuming we have a shiny new CBA by then, the seminar will function as a briefing in which league executives are educated on how business will change with the new agreement.

If you ran out of bubbly after that news, be prepared to suck your local establishment dry with ESPN’s Adam Schefter now reporting that if the two sides address the few remaining unresolved issues, the players are planning to vote Wednesday to approve a settlement.

The aim is to reach that elusive deal in principle tomorrow, ideally setting in motion the gradual fall of dominoes throughout the rest of the week. On Wednesday the 32 player representatives can recommend a settlement in the Brady v. NFL case. The passing of the settlement is then in the hands of the 10 plaintiffs involved in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league, which would be followed by all 1,900 players finalizing the deal on their end by voting to recertify their union that dissolved in March. Finally, the owners will vote at their meeting Thursday, and the madness will end.

Follow all that? Good. Don’t worry, this is all ending soon. I sure hope it does at least, because my illegal Tylenol 3 subscription is running out.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that the main issue still stubbornly in need of a resolution is the players’ pursuit of the $320 million in lost benefits due to the uncapped year in 2010. Breer also writes that several other minor issues relating to language in the new CBA regarding injury protection (i.e. worker’s compensation, and rules governing offseason workouts) are also lingering.

Meanwhile, the benefits for retired players–a.k.a the Legacy Fund–was tied into a nice, highly profitable bow today. Smith previously made a pledge to protect the legacy of retired players, a pledge he’s now fulfilled by plugging in $620 million more in retiree benefits over the next 10 years, bringing the total of the Legacy Fund to roughly $1 billion.

Escalating today’s talks was the arrival of Judge Arthur Boylan in New York. Boylan’s initial plans to have the two sides rendezvous with him in Minneapolis Tuesday clearly changed, and his appearance at a Manhattan legal office shows that talks are accelerating. The players also appealed in court to have the lockout declared illegal, a formality which will be deemed moot if a settlement is reached in the next 48 hours.

We’ve said this before about previous stretches, but these next 48 hours–especially the 24 of them that will take place Tuesday–are the most important 48 hours of all the important 48 hours throughout this four months of pain.