That's enough small talk for now, so let's get to it.
1. The final procedural aspects to end the lockout this week have been in place for several days, with the players discussing the deal Wednesday and the owners voting Thursday. But the exact details appear to be murky until the last minute.
2. I asked a player representative Tuesday afternoon about what he expected to happen Wednesday, and he responded, "I honestly have no idea."
3. Even though there is so much optimism surrounding the labor resolution, there are still so many moving parts that it's impossible for everything to be completely organized even one day ahead of time. Obviously, this is all pretty understandable considering the circumstances.
4. Let's wait until everything plays out before criminalizing Logan Mankins for asking for compensation in the settlement. Based on conflicting reports, few can be truly sure what, if anything, Mankins wants as compensation for being one of the 10 named plaintiffs.
5. Even if he did want to become an unrestricted free agent for $10 million, that doesn't mean he's going to hold the league hostage before signing off to end the lockout.
6. In my opinion, Mankins has made some poor choices in his dealings with the Patriots' front office for the last two seasons, but that's so completely different from a potential battle with the league over its labor settlement. It's unfair to link the two.
7. Mankins, as well as Vincent Jackson, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, might just be testing the waters to see how much leverage they've got in the final hours of the lockout. I'd be stunned if they didn't loosen their demands — or drop them entirely — if the owners didn't budge.
8. Bottom line, if those four signatures are all that stand in the way of labor peace, I'd be absolutely stunned if the pens didn't hit the paper immediately.
9. The precedent with the issue is key, too. All of the named plaintiffs in the 1993 antitrust case were compensated by being exempt from the franchise tag for the duration of their careers.
10. Ask for something high, and take something that is worth a little less. That's how settlements work, and the named plaintiffs should be entitled to some type of compensation, even if it is marginal.
11. On a side note, if Mankins is awarded unrestricted free agency, you've got to wonder if that was his intention all along. If that's the case, you've got to tip your cap to the way his agent, Frank Bauer, orchestrated that plan to get Mankins on the list of named plaintiffs.
12. If the lockout ends Thursday and the labor tutorial happens Friday, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Patriots orchestrate workouts immediately. By my best guess, the earliest that training camp would start would be the middle of next week, but it would be more realistic to expect it to happen during the first week of August.
13. Since about a dozen Patriots have been working out diligently in Foxboro since March, it would be easy for them to shift over to Gillette Stadium. And since captain Jerod Mayo has led those workouts, I'm certain that he'd ask his teammates to report with him as soon as possible. Think of it as a variation of organized team activities that begin in mid-March during a traditional offseason.
14. Patriots rookie running back Shane Vereen even tweeted Tuesday that he's "moving in today." Though that could mean a number of things, let's use our deductive reasoning skills and assume he means the Foxboro area.
15. Vereen probably isn't the only one who is moving to Foxboro this week, so I'd expect Gillette to be a busy place this weekend if the lockout comes to an end.
16. I've started to highlight a number of key players who could be involved in a tight positional — I debuted with Ty Warren on Tuesday — and I'll feature 14 Patriots over the course of two weeks.
17. The best battles could happen on the offensive line, but that's still too difficult to determine at this point since it's unclear what will happen with Mankins and Matt Light. So from there, I think the most intense battle could happen at cornerback, where Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite might be fighting for three spots.
18. Also look at safety, where there's a good mix of veterans who will have to fend off some youth. There might be a surprise at that position. While I'd still be a little shocked if the Patriots parted with Brandon Meriweather or James Sanders, at this point I think Patrick Chung is the only safety in the group who has a guaranteed spot on the 2011 roster.
19. This is also a big training camp for three young wide receivers: Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Taylor Price. If the Patriots add a veteran to the mix — such as Donte Stallworth, who I've mentioned several times this offseason — one of the youngsters will likely be the odd man out. Based on what I've seen out of a more muscular Edelman this offseason, I think he's got a great shot to make the club, so there could be a good battle between Tate and Price.
20. Have any pressing Patriots questions? Submit them to my weekly mailbag, which is my first one since I departed for vacation June 17.