The $765 million proposed settlement between the NFL and players who sued the league for allegedly concealing a link between football and brain damage ended up in court-ordered mediation only after the judge told players' attorneys that the bulk of their case was in "real danger of being dismissed" a source familiar with the negotiations told "Outside the Lines."

And while NFL attorneys confidently indicated that they would take the case to court U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in the same discussion in her Philadelphia court chambers in July told league attorneys that at least part of the case was likely to survive a possibility that would expose the league to potentially embarrassing disclosures and a continuing public relations nightmare.

Thus began a seven-week odyssey that culminated with Thursday's settlement announcement. The settlement which still must be approved by Brody would put $675 million of the $765 million aside to compensate former players and families of deceased players who have suffered cognitive injury. Other money will be used for baseline medical exams and research and education at a cost of $10 million. Once it covers attorneys' fees of players the league will pay out close to $1 billion.

Shortly after the July meeting with Brody Christopher A. Seeger a litigation attorney who represented the players and Brad S. Karp a partner with one of the NFL's outside law firms met to discuss a potential settlement. The two men had held preliminary discussions as early as the previous August but negotiations did not become serious until after the July meeting. Those negotiations which involved former U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips the court-appointed mediator included dozens of sometimes-heated meetings and phone conversations and continued as late as 2 a.m. the day the settlement was announced.

Once in mediation the players demanded slightly more than $2 billion to settle the case the source said. The NFL indicated that it was unwilling to offer more than a token settlement and said it was prepared to try the case.

One attorney who represents dozens of players but was not directly involved in the negotiations said he was told that the NFL had initially offered "peanuts" and that the proposed compensation was commensurate with a "dog-bite" case. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment Saturday.

Brody had signaled that she was going to side with at least part of the league's argument that some players covered by the collective bargaining agreement should not able to sue the league. That would have gutted the lawsuit in two ways. First it would have removed many of the nearly 6000 former players and/or their families suing including lawyers for the players believed players who appeared in the league from 1994-2010 the controversial period at the heart of the lawsuit. Second those who remained would have faced a major hurdle proving fraud allegations given that the NFL's controversial concussion committee wasn't formed until 1994.

Even so as meetings continued with Phillips and Brody it became clear that the NFL was potentially facing years of litigation even if many of the plaintiffs were to be tossed out of the case.

The negotiations became more urgent during the past two weeks the source said. For the players part of the urgency was forced by a Sept. 3 deadline that had been set by Brody for the two sides to report back to her. Lawyers for the players had become convinced that Brody would not extend the deadline and was prepared to make a decision that might weaken the lawsuit significantly. For the NFL the pressures were clear. The league was eager to avoid having the matter hanging over the 2013 season.

To encourage a settlement Brody repeatedly reminded the NFL about the continuing public relations damage. "She put a lot of heat on both sides and didn't let us get comfortable" the source said.