10. Barring a last-minute agreement, the NFL will cease operations as we know them tonight at 11 when the league's current collective bargaining agreement expires. The owners and players have met via mediation the last nine days with no significant movement. The owners, dealt a significant blow this week when a judge ruled they could not touch $4 billion in TV reserves during a lockout, dispersed yesterday with no further meetings planned. Ominous.
9. This will be a lockout, not a strike. That means this is the owners grinding things to a halt and it means there will be no traditional picket lines and no chance of a feel-good implementation of off-the-street scab players like the ones used in 1987. If you're choosing sides, see it as the owners being even more greedy.
8. The main chess pieces in the owners vs. players are NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and players union boss DeMaurice Smith. Each is venturing into his first labor negotiation, which should make things interesting.
7. Once the lockout begins, everything stops. Except for the NFL Draft April 28, which will be a surreal event considering the rest of the league has shut down. Players can't visit team facilities, have playbooks or make any contact with team officials. Likewise, teams will stop using players' photos and stats on their websites. The NFL will be alive, but in a coma.
6. I remember the last major work stoppage in 1987. On one Sunday I found myself -- instead of watching the NFL -- down at my local VFW playing bingo.
5. The players are pondering to decertify their union, meaning they will no longer be represented as a whole in negotiations. If this happens and the owners continue with the lockout, this thing could involve antitrust laws and will be headed to the courts for years of legalese.
4. Since no free agents can be signed or trades made, it'll be fascinating to keep up with players during the lockout. Unable to train at team facilities and no longer receiving paychecks, this thing could ruin some careers. Some savvy players have saved their pennies for a rainy day. Others...
3. When the lockout is over the NFL likely will have an 18-game schedule and a rookie wage scale. This is mostly about off-the-field stuff. The game we've grown to love won't be noticeably different.
2. At the heart of the matter is how the players and owners will share $9 billion in annual NFL revenue. Consider the absurdity of that "problem."
1. It will take blown deadlines, ugly rhetoric and, yes, uncomfortable compromise, but I just can't see the NFL missing any games because of this labor impasse. The '87 strike was a disaster for the owners and we saw the staggering blows the work stoppages dealt Major League Baseball in '94 and the NHL in '05. By Labor Day we'll be talking cornerbacks, not court rulings.
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