Multiple news reports over the last 72 hours have stated that significant progress has been made in the NFL labor impasse between the owners and players. Recently, a report surfaced that DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL players association, secured a secret player insurance fund if football was missed in 2011. Could that have sparked the progress in negotiations?

Jim Trotter of cnnsi.com examines the matter further.

Smith disclosed the fund to only a handful of people outside of the executive committee. However with negotiations seemingly at a standstill late Wednesday night, the decision was made to play one of their aces in the hole. So in the relative quiet of the sides' New York City bargaining room the next morning, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth informed the owners of the previously secret lockout fund.

Was that the shove in the back that moved the sides closer to a potential agreement? Only the owners know for sure, but a source close to one of them said the disclosure definitely got that side's attention. Perhaps for good reason.

That's not a bad "ace in the hole." Any players that were doubting Smith's skills during these lockout negotiations need to reconsider. Common sense suggests that the owners may have been banking on the players union having major issues once players began to miss paychecks. The secret insurance fund, which would pay players around $200,000 if no football is played, probably had something to do with the recent surge of progress in negotiations.