Delay of Game: Lockout Looms for NFL

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But the NFL insists the changes it's pushing for are necessary for the league's long-term financial health.

"This is about the future of our game," Goodell said. "There are things that need to be addressed and we need to address those responsible, so that everybody can win."

Labor disputes have occurred recently in the other professional sports leagues. The 2004-2005 NHL season was cancelled because of a lockout. The NBA had a six-month work stoppage in 1998. When Major League Baseball players went on strike in August 1994, the rest of the season, the playoffs and the World Series were cancelled.

Players Insist They Want To Work

But unlike that baseball strike, the NFL players insist they want to work -- and it's the owners that will prevent them from doing so.

"The players deadline is March 4," the NFLPA's Atallah said. "That is critical, because to them, to a group of employees that need to go work out at their facilities [and] get physical treatment for their illness, that is the critical date for them.

"Once the contract expires," Atallah added, "effectively players are not allowed to engage with employers, they can't work out, they can't go meet with their coaching staffs."

Goodell sat down with DeMaurice Smith, the players' union chief, in New York on Wednesday and both sides are continuing to express optimism that something will work out before the March 4 deadline. But it may take a last second Hail Mary pass for an agreement to be reached.

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