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Update: What to watch for if a lockout is imposed

03.03.11 at 10:09 am ET
By

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (AP)

According to multiple reports, both players and owners have arrived for mediation at the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services in Washington, D.C., as we tick down to midnight and the expiration of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. We gave you a few of the sticking points between the two teams, and while we await word on what’s going down inside — white smoke from the Vatican chimney, if you will — here are a few things to look for over the next couple of days.

If there’s no agreement struck by Thursday at midnight, come Friday morning, everything essentially comes to a halt. Players will not be allowed inside their team facilities, and wouldn’t be allowed to have contact with coaches or trainers. Teams could not conduct voluntary workouts or organized team activities with players. In addition, teams could not interview or sign free agents, and there would be no payment of offseason roster and workout bonuses. There will still be a draft, which will take place April 28-30. At the draft, teams will be allowed to swap draft picks but not players. However, draftees won’t be able to sign until a new deal is in place. They won’t even be able to get a playbook.

The players union will likely decertify. Players have been preparing for this since the regular season as a tactic against the owners — if a lockout does take place, decertification would allow individual players file anti-trust lawsuits against the owners for restricting trade. (Disbanding the union would be necessary because a union is not allowed to sue a party with which it is collectively bargaining.) If they do want to decertify, the players have to file those papers by 5 p.m. Thursday. If the word comes down that the players’ union has decided to decertify, it’s a sign that things are going poorly.

There remains the possibility that the two sides could push the deadline back, which certainly would appear to be the most hopeful news of the day. As Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post wrote: “The extension would come from two factors: (1) a spirit of good faith from both sides that negotiations are spinning in a positive direction while the clock is ticking down, and (2) the mediator recommends to both sides to stop the clock and continue negotiating without a hard deadline for tomorrow night.”

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