Nearly three weeks ago, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King predicted that the two sides in the NFL labor wars would nail down an agreement by July 10, thanks in part to the improving trust between the owners and the players. The July 10 date, he elaborated, was his “over-under” call. Well, we’re now in “over” territory.

Headlines these days are producing a fresh wave of optimism. Just last night, AP reported a “growing belief” that there’ll be an agreement by July 21. An owner told ESPN that there’s “no reason to believe it won’t get done.”

Unless there is, of course: A reporter warns fans not to believe the hype.Quoting an unnamed player, Pete Prisco writes, “‘All that is hype coming from the owners side to try and put pressure on us to do a deal. They want to make us look bad. It’s simply not true. There is a lot of work to be done. They are not close.’”

Two constants plague the coverage of the four-month-old lockout: One is the multiple personality disorder that the negotiations have taken on. Optimism one day; pessimism the next. Two is the lack of attribution. Those who are seated at the table are under a gag order, so much of the information comes from, well, who knows?

Stories on the lockout are heavy with references to “player sources,” “sources close” to this or that, and sometimes just a “person.” Are we getting second-hand information? Fourth-hand information?

The latest round of reporting/speculation puts the sports media in a fix: If no deal is reached by July 21, lockout scribes must band together and write to their readers: We have no idea what’s going on here.