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NFL Lockout: What You Need To Know Before The Deadline

We are only hours away from an NFL lockout at this point. At 11:59 p.m. on March 3rd, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL owners and NFL Players Association will expire and football will officially stop.

The main man for the NFLPA is DeMaurice Smith, executive director, and for the league that's Commissioner Roger Goodell. Here are a few questions I've seen floating around.

When does the lockout start?

11:59 p.m. on March 3rd. On March 4th, we're in a lockout.

What's the lockout all about?

This could be a long answer but I'll shorten it -- money. The owners feel they need a bigger slice of the pie because the players got a great deal the last time around (2006) and the current model is not sustainable. The players have asked the owners to open the books but that hasn't (and likely won't) happen. Money, and how to distribute it, is the main issue but other issues include: 18-game schedule, benefits for retired players and health care.

How long will it last?

It depends. Optimistic views think the two sides still have a chance to extend the deadline and get something done in a few weeks. Unfortunately, that's almost an unrealistic optimistic view. It could go deep into the summer, ruining training camp, possibly messing up the preseason games and maybe even regular season games. Basically, we don't know how long it will last but many people think it rolls into the summer.

Are there any other options to a lockout?

Yes the union could decertify and sue the league on their anti-trust exemptions. Potentially, this would keep the argument in the courts as the game is continued to be played. The league could still impose a lockout, though. If this happens, we're getting into some major legalese on how to keep football going this year.

Are players paid during a lockout?

Nope. No one is paid. Players don't get salary checks until the season starts but early March is when free agency starts and that's usually when the big bonus money comes in. That won't be happening this year. Many coaches and team employees will also see their pay cut in the event of a lockout.

What about free agency?

No free agency with a lockout. Once the two sides sign an agreement, they'll evaluate having free agency. It's possible, though, if this lockout goes for a while, that there won't be free agency at all this year. Just to clarify -- until March 3rd, vested veterans without a team are free agents and eligible to sign with anyone. But the lack of a new CBA has caused some teams to avoid signing players at all right now.

Will the draft happen?

No matter what, the draft will happen on April 28.

So what do we do on March 4th?

My advice: Don't pick sides. Blame both the league and union for royally screwing the golden goose.