Five days from now, the NFL and NFLPA will be staring down the same gun barrels that they were a week ago: agree on a new CBA, or begin perhaps the ugliest labor dispute in professional sports history.
Last week, the two sides - with the help of federal mediator George H. Cohen (pictured) - agreed to extend the expiration of the current CBA first by 24 hours, then by a full week. With rumors circulating that no more extensions are likely without very significant negotiation progress, mediated negotiations will resume at 3PM today - 98 hours before the newly-negotiated 5PM Friday expiration date arrives.
When last week's extension was announced, league commissioner Roger Goodell said that a new labor deal would be reached through negotiation, not litigation, while NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith promised that fans wouldn't be let down. The two sides have repeatedly refused to comment on negotiations publicly, though the players clearly went out of their way to make it known that they remain unified over the weekend.
The stakes have never been higher, and the falsified drama of last week's sessions will be less plastic this time around. It's going to be a long week. Let's hope it ends with football, not court rooms, in the limelight.