League ownership and representatives of the players union are down to the wire for a third time in a week, facing the choice to extend negotiations, agree to a new CBA, or doom the NFL to months - perhaps years - of litigation.
Ownership cannot impose a lockout until CBA expires at midnight on Friday night, but the real deadline is Friday afternoon.
If the talks are not successful or extended, the union must file for decertification and sue the NFL on grounds of antitrust before 5pm EST Friday. The union would decertify and sue to challenge the league's legal status to impose a lockout. The winner would be decided in a series of court decisions and appears, though the league may be able to operate football games while the litigation is pending.
The NFL has an opportunity here to show the other major sports how it is done. Similar labor strife will arise with NBA in June, MLB in December, and the NHL in June of 2012.