[Update by JasonB, 06/02/11 3:44 PM EDT ] They apparently were forced to... So I suppose that means less to be optimistic about. Still, the meeting at least involves actual owners talking to actual players. News began to leak out yesterday that a number of influential NFL owners (Bob Kraft, Jerry Jones, Jerry Richardson), along with commissioner Roger Goodell held a "secret" unannounced meeting in Chicago. It was late revealed that NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith and federal mediator Arthur Boylan was also in attendance. The two sides were not scheduled to resume mediation until next Tuesday in Minneapolis. According to the Washington Post, the two sides will continue to talk today. The meetings come ahead of Friday date in the 8th circuit court of appeals, which will hear the owners appeal of the players anti trust lawsuit. It is expected that the 8th circuit will rule in the owners’ favor. While mediation has yet to yield any results for the two sides, it is significant that they’ve decided to meet without being ordered to by the court. Plus, the presence of DeMaurice Smith is significant. If the 8th circuit court does indeed rule in favor of the owners, which is a decision that likely wouldn’t happen for a few weeks, it would hand the owners significant leverage in the negotiations and set a legal precedent that the players do not want. Given all that, it would make sense for the players to want to get a deal done before that decision is handed down. Smith’s presence at the unscheduled negotiations could certainly be seen as an indication of his willingness to deal. At the very least however, this has to be seen as a positive step and hopefully can lead to a deal.