Thursday was supposed to be the day. Will the union decertify? Will the owners lockout the players at midnight? Will the two sides come to an agreement?
Instead, all this day did, was guarantee another day like it. The two sides agreed to extend the deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement an additional 24 hours.
Albert Breer of the NFL Network was on with RJ Choppy and Bryan Braoddus on ESPN Radio tonight. Breer said that all the two sides did Thursday was buy themselves a little more time ... to buy more time. We'll probably get news tomorrow afternoon that they're going to extend the deadline again. Breer, who was a Cowboys beat writer from 2007-2008, has been on the scene for all 10 days of these mediation/negotiation sessions. In his tweets (follow @albertbreer), Breer added a few things:
"As has been reported plenty, tomorrow's not about negotiating as much as it is creating new negotiating window. Work to do on that."
"Tomorrow, league will come to mediator's office. Union negotiating team will convene at PA office on 20th, wait for word from Cohen. ... " (Breer also mentioned this on the radio -- that the union won't go to the mediator's office on Friday until they get a call from him)
"My sense is the players would like to see more of an ownership presence in that room. Would project seriousness on league side."
One of the things the players side was wary of today was what the owners' motivation to extending the deadline was. The players side wanted some good-faith guarantees; they were worried the owners were posturing, extending the deadline to make it appear that they were putting more effort into the negotiation than they really were.
Earlier Chris Mortensen of ESPN was on TV, talking about how fans should react to the 24-hour extension. Mortensen said they should be "guardedly optimistic," with an emphasis on "guardedly."
Vonnie Holliday sounded even less optimistic. The Washington Redskins player rep told a DC television station that the two sides "are not in the same ballpark." He also told The Washington Post, "I don't see how we can be that close right now unless somebody is going to pull a rabbit out of the hat."
After spending the day following this story from 1,400 miles away, I still don't know what to think. Before I saw what Holliday said, it seemed to me that the extension was a step in the right direction, a step toward an agreement. Instead, it seems like neither side is really ready to pull the trigger -- owners aren't quite ready to lock out the players, and the players aren't quite ready to decertify the union.
We'll learn more tomorrow, but if I had to bet on it, my money is on another extension, and they resume negotiations next week.