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All that could change of course if the two sides return to the bargaining table for real, though that won’t happen until sometime after the June 3 hearing before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the validity of the lockout. Should the players lose _ an outcome many expect _ their options will narrow considerably and the pressure from within will begin to grow exponentially.

The wild card here is the union doesn’t even technically exist anymore. Players voted to decertify so they could go to court to block the NFL from imposing a lockout.

That means there can’t be any real talks until after the appeals court makes a final ruling. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking.

And Smith may soon find himself needing a speech that really counts.


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at) or follow at