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NFL Lockout: Clock Ticks Toward Deadline

The clock is ticking toward an inevitable lockout of the players in the ongoing labor dispute between the NFL and NFL Players Association. The current collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday. If no agreement is reached during today’s meetings, owners are expected to lock out players beginning Friday.

That would mean no football activities until the dispute is settled. No OTA’s, mini-camps, training camps or games until a new CBA is reached. The Star-Ledger has an informative breakdown of how teams, players, employees and fans could all be affected.

The players association may choose to decertify later today if it becomes obvious that no agreement will be reached by the deadline. The Biz Of Football broke down exactly what that means. The New York Times wonders if that move would be a sham.

The Biz of Football also wonders if today is the “real” deadline for the two sides to reach agreement. After all, the 2011 NFL season remains months away.

Although the current CBA expires tomorrow {today} at 11:59 PM, one must question whether this is a "hard deadline." Last month, CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell suggested this possibility during an interview with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. During the interview, Rovell questioned whether the sides thus far have actually engaged in serious bargaining and posited that the acrimony on public display is not genuine. After labor unrest persists through the summer and threatens the millions in annual sponsorship dollars, the public animus will surely exit from negotiations and both sides will quicken the bargaining pace to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

Rovell’s conjecture that the current deadline is not a hard one seems reasonable to follow. This labor dispute has included considerable gamesmanship, as the sides have seemed more content to file grievances and unfair labor practices instead of engaging in good faith bargaining. The majority of negotiations have seemed fruitless and even insiders say that mediation only concerns minor disputes. This would mean that the sides have a long way to go until a new accord is within reach. Narrowing the gap would, as Rovell suggested, coincide with the potential loss of league revenues due to a labor stoppage. In other words, dates and deadlines may mean nothing in these negotiations.