In only a few short days, the NFL's current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and the NFL Player's Association (NFLPA) will expire. Specifically, the agreement will expire at 11:59 PM on March 3rd, giving the two sides only a handful of opportunities to reach an agreement and avoid a lockout before the deadline reaches.
For fans of football, there are still a few reasons to hope. While it's looking very unlikely that an agreement will be reached before the March 3rd deadline, there are ways we could still see football in 2011. The owners and NFLPA could reach an agreement before the season begins - there are six more month until September - or the NFLPA could pull its trump card and "decertify" before the March 3rd deadline. This move would allow football to continue, while the player's association continued pursuing a new CBA in court.
Of course, both of these situations are seeming more and more unlikely. The NFL owners have already made moves to prevent the NFLPA from decertifying, and the owners have already prepared themselves for the likelihood of a long negotiation. Neither side seems willing to give at this point, and as unfortunate as it is, they likely won't reach an agreement until both sides begin feeling to effects of the lockout in their pocketbooks.
This negotiation all comes down to how big of a slice of revenues to give to the players. Players feel they deserve more money and have asked the owners to open their books, but the owners are refusing and claiming that the current deal is unsustainable for them. Also, players want more health and retirement benefits, especially in light of recent studies showing the long-term health effects of concussions.
At this point, all we can do is wait and see. Start preparing yourselves for a long, drawn-out battle, and keep your fingers crossed that we'll see football again this fall.