NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Less than 72 hours before the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement expires, the league and the players’ union were scheduled to resume negotiations in front of a federal mediator.

There was no telling whether the sides would fare any better Tuesday than they did over seven consecutive days of talks that wrapped up last week — and left the league’s owners and the NFL Players Association far apart on the major issues.

When it comes to the NFL, it’s all one big guessing game at the moment.

“Everything is hypothetical right now,” new San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I’m just optimistic we can get something done.”

The CBA expires at midnight Thursday, and the owners could lock out the players immediately. Even before that, though, the union could decertify — essentially, declare itself out of the business of representing players — and let the players take their chances in court.

Not far away from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, where director George Cohen will attempt to help the parties make more progress, the 32 teams’ owners are slated to meet Wednesday and Thursday at a hotel in Virginia for updates on the status of negotiations.

And then they will need to determine their next step.

Whatever happens between now and Friday could eventually wind up causing the country’s most popular sport to lose regular-season games to a work stoppage for the first time since 1987. Or everything could be resolved by management and labor in an industry with revenues topping $9 billion annually.

The biggest sticking point all along has been how to divide those revenues, including what cut team owners should get up front to help cover certain costs, such as stadium construction.

Among the other significant topics in negotiations: a rookie wage scale; the owners’ push to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 while reducing the preseason by two games; and benefits for retired players.

In many respects, this boils down to money, of course. And there is plenty of money at risk the longer it takes for the league and NFLPA to work together again.

“Players have a lot of risk; clubs have a lot of risk,” Jeff Pash, the NFL’s lead labor negotiator, said in January. “We know that the financial consequences of no agreement — of a significant delay in reaching an agreement — will be significant and will be shared. It does not fall on one party.”

The league estimates there would be a cut in gross revenues of $350 million if there’s no new CBA by August, before the preseason starts, and a loss of revenues totaling $1 billion if no new contract is in place until September. And if regular-season games are lost in 2011, the NFL figures that revenue losses would amount to about $400 million per week.

If the league locks out the players, everything would stop except the NFL draft on April 28-30, and any interviews or workouts teams hold for college players leading up to the draft. After that, though, teams wouldn’t be able to contact their picks or sign undrafted rookies.

Can the sides come together before the deadline? Let your voice be heard in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

pixy NFL Lockout Looms; Time Running Out On CBA

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