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NFL, NFLPA counting down to midnight negotiating deadline

Kevin McGuire's picture

The NFL and the NFL Player's Association are still far from agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement and if a deal is not signed by midnight on Thursday night, the league is expected to announce it will be locking out their players moving forward.

The current contract expires at 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday and representatives from the league and the union are scheduled to begin meeting at 9 a.m. in Washington with a mediator. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, New York Giants co-owner John Mara, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy and two league attorneys met with the mediator on Wednesday but the union failed to attend the meeting, indicating that tensions are tight between the two sides. Entering Thursday the two sides had met with mediator George Cohen for a total of 51 hours.

The key debating point for the league and the players stems from the NFL owners wanting to take an additional $1 billion off of the league revenue before the players receive their 56.9% share. Players are also concerned with Goodell's idea of extending the regular season to 18 games. The additional games would lead to more health concerns for the players and careers are considered to be threatened in terms of longevity of a career with an extra two games per season without increased compensation from the league. Also on the negotiating table are a rookie pay scale and a benefits package for retired players.

If the lockout commences on Friday it means that no free agent signings will be done, trades will not be allowed between teams, and off-season training camps and organized team activities will be suspended. The NFL Draft will still take place in April but teams will not be allowed to trade draft picks in exchange for players already on a roster. The good news for the league is that these lockout measures are taking place in March and not September, but some feel that a work stoppage could extend to closer to the start of the regular season and possibly cause a loss of games. Without a fear of losing paychecks or revenue, there may be no incentive for the union or the owners to give in to any demands in negotiating.

The last time there was a work stoppage in the NFL it was because of a player's strike in 1987. The strike helped lead to the introduction of free agency in the NFL and lasted 24 days. Owners opted to use replacement players during the span from late September through mid-October and even though the players ended the strike by decertification of their union, the union regrouped in 1989 and led to the current free agency structure used today in 1993.

The last time a major sports league shut down operations was in 2004 when the National Hockey League canceled an entire season, which had never been done before in professional sports. Owners in the league were concerned about a salary cap while players wanted to be paid a wage reflected by the league revenue. The owners ultimately claimed victory by adding a salary cap to the league and the NHL resumed play in 2005 after a 310-day shutdown.

The NBA lost 464 games during a 1998-99 lockout. The battle between owners and players was the same as what led to the NHL lockout and again the owners were able to claim victory with a salary cap implemented in to the league. The NBA had experienced work stoppages before but never lost regular season games before this situation. The NBA organized a 50-game schedule in a shortened season that started in January of 1999.

Major League Baseball's last work stoppage is still working to bring some fans back to the game. In 1994 a player's strike postponed the World Series for the first time since 1904. A total of 938 regular season games were lost when the season ended in August. The owners wanted to bring revenue sharing to the league and tie that to a salary cap. Owners did not win the coveted salary cap but a plan to bring partial revenue sharing to the league was amended in time.

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