Possible NFL lockout 10 days away

For the past year, separating NFL labor unrest from the AFC East blog has been easy. The looming tumult was on the margin, away from the game and not obviously associated with what we saw on the field. We had plenty of actual football news to preoccupy ourselves.

The season has been over for weeks. Lockout talk can't be avoided anymore. The collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of business March 3.

That's T-minus 10 days and counting.

With the NFL labor situation clearly the game's dominant issue, the AFC East blog can't remain a total sanctuary from CBA talk. While I've routinely made references to how the uncertainties could affect free agency and roster decisions, it's time to start sharing regular updates on the actual wrangling between the owners and the union.

I won't bombard you with constant updates on labor negotiating minutiae, but I will occasionally post links and ESPN.com videos that help provide an understanding of the critical issues as they evolve, particularly when they pertain to AFC East clubs.

All four AFC East teams will be impacted in different ways. For example, Sports Business Journal writer Daniel Kaplan reported Monday that the New York Jets will impose furloughs on front office employees not connected to football operations if a new CBA isn't reached.

It's not a fun time for anyone -- players, coaches, executives, and especially fans. I covered perhaps the ugliest labor battle in North American sports when the NHL locked out its players for 2004-05.

A whole season was erased, and while I'm more optimistic the NFL will avoid a similar travesty, the man who oversaw the NHL owners' strategy, Bob Batterman, aides the NFL these days. Contrary to folklore, Batterman doesn't attend meetings in a cloak and hold a scythe. But I suspect he keeps a mini-sickle in his briefcase.

Unfortunately, there won't be enough purely football distractions until there's a new CBA.

April's draft and all of the events that lead up to it -- the NFL scouting combine, pro days, Wonderlic tests, et al -- essentially are the only offseason diversions on which we can depend.

Let's hope labor season doesn't drag on.