Deadlines always loom, but the latest deadline for the NFL and NFLPA brings uncertainty as both sides seem unwilling to budge.
March 4 at midnight. This was D-Day for the NFL. The previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that was agreed to back in 2006 was set to expire and with that expiration came a lot of fear mongering and wondering as to how the NFL would look if and when a new CBA was agreed upon. There were various Armageddon scenarios, some so toxic that not even Bruce Willis with the help of Michael Bay could hope to resolve. Those options included a full blown lockout, replacement players, players retreating to the UFL or other lower level football leagues and even decertifying the union, which would have created a mess the likes of which professional sports haven't seen.
Luckily, we think, both the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a 24-hour extension, which turned into a 7-day extension. The assigned mediator and Judge Doty both said the 7-day extension would only come if there were a legitimate chance that a new CBA would be struck by the new D-Day, March 11. This statement would seem to lend itself to optimism for the fans.
But here's the rub. Given that an extension has been given and new life, at least for a week, has been given to the NFL, fans should remain cautious of success, which we'll call a new CBA. First, these are all men with giant egos trying to decide how to slice a nine billion dollar pie. Second, we're dealing with men's livelihood, and by that I mean not just their paycheck, but their physical well being. A money issue can be resolved, but with all the attention on long-term health, player's certainly aren't going to succumb to more punishment for a smaller overall piece of the pie. Third, negotiations are taking place for shorter duration of time, lasting only four hours on Monday.
With the deadline approaching, a lockout, strike, or decertification becomes more of a reality. A second extension doesn't seem to be justifiable. Both sides have one last trump card to play. The owners have the lockout card, knowing that they can last in a lockout far longer than most, if not all players. The player's trump card is decertification, leading to a new world order in the NFL that no one seems to have a handle on. Each day that passes brings us closer to that reality, a wild west type system with no rules, or a prolonged period without organized professional football.
The countdown is still ticking away. I'd like to think a deal will get done that not only satisfies both parties, but puts some boundaries on a game that has gotten a tad stale and overregulated. But until both sides say "deal" and shake hands or roll around in hundred dollar bills, we'll be left wondering what the next step is and where it leads.