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NFL Players And Owners Face Midnight Deadline02:31
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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, second from left, leaves NFL labor negotiations with the owners delegation Wednesday. (AP)
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, second from left, leaves NFL labor negotiations with the owners delegation Wednesday. (AP)

The collective bargaining agreement between the National Football League and the Players' Association expires at midnight Thursday night.

The wrangling between NFL owners and the NFLPA is expected to continue right up to the deadline. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft returned to Boston on Thursday after participating in negotiations before a federal mediator in Virginia on Wednesday.

Some say the two sides are so far apart that this fall's football season is at risk. ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss told Morning Edition's Bob Oakes that splitting the NFL's mammoth revenue pile is the largest sticking point in negotiations.

"The reason we’re in this position is the owners decided the current agreement didn’t work out for them," Reiss said.

Kraft was one of the owners to opt out of the agreement.

Reiss said that there were three major pushes to this bargaining deal.

"As it often is, money would be the first sticking point," he said. "How do you split the revenues between the owners and the players? A couple of other sticking points are, should we play 16 games, which is what it currently is, or 18 games, which would help grow the revenue pie from an ownership perspective? Players, of course, saying, 'If we’re going to play more games, we want to be compensated more for that.' "

Reiss also mentioned that a rookie wage scale would be an important factor in the agreement. Some of the younger players entering the league are high draft choices with high price tags, he said.

"Owners would like to see a little more control over that. Maybe see that money reduced, and have it go to some of the players already in the league," Reiss said.

Kraft plays a large role in talks between NFL owners and NFLPA, according to Reiss.

"He’s considered a bridge builder, someone who is not going to come in with necessarily a hard line," Reiss said. "He’s going to hear both sides out and say, ‘Let’s try to meet in the middle here.’ So I think from a reputation standpoint, in his time in the league since buying the Patriots in 1994, Robert Kraft is looked at as more of a deal maker than a deal breaker."

Reiss admitted there's a chance that next year's NFL season could be canceled.

"We could see an extension of this collective bargaining just to give some more time to see if we could find more common ground," he said. "We could see the owners lock the players out. We could see the players de-certify. This could enter the courtroom. But if you are asking me for my hunch, I think they will be playing football."

This program aired on March 3, 2011.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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