Normally, this would be the time of the year when the hangover from the end of the NFL regular season begins to subside for fans.
March Madness - not of the college basketball variety - would be beginning today with the start of free agency. Fans would be tracking every rumor about which players might end up signing with their favorite team.
Following a week's worth of stories about college prospects at the NFL combine, it's enough to fuel the juices almost as much as opening weekend in September.
But there was no major free-agent news in the early morning hours of today. The phone lines that normally would have been humming with calls between general managers and agents were as cold as the weather of late.
It's all because of the lockout that nearly went into effect at midnight Thursday night. Owners eager to make sure they continue to get a larger piece of the billions of dollars generated each year are telling teams to shut down offseason plans until something is worked out.
Earlier on Thursday, the sides agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement 24 hours so more negotiations can be held.
This labor dispute might pale in comparison to what's taking place in Wisconsin, but it's important in ways that are difficult to calculate. The NFL is a national obsession. No other professional sport comes close to creating the excitement of a NFL Sunday. What would fans do without fantasy football leagues?
These types of disputes are difficult to grasp to those outside of the inner workings of the league. The NFL has a great thing going, but it's apparently not as great as we think, according to the owners.
A big part of the conversation comes down to money, as it always does, but there are other issues on the table. The owners want to expand the schedule to 18 games, something the players are against. There's talk of a rookie wage scale, which seems to be a smaller obstacle to labor peace.
The owners say they need to maintain a larger piece of the financial pie to continue business operations as usual. The players say that's fine, but show us the books. That seems to be a problem for the owners.
The 18-game schedule is probably a foregone conclusion, but perhaps not for a few more seasons. Players are against it because of the increased risk of injury. Owners want it because the extra two games can increase revenue.
This is an area where the owners should listen closely to the players. Pro football, more than any of the other pro sports, is brutal with careers that last an average of three to four years. Not all players make quarterback-like money.
Most of the players have short careers with salaries that look good to those of us in other areas of work, but it's not like they leave the game in the same tax bracket as Bill Gates. Some consideration should be given to what those players go through in practices and on game days.
The last time I saw Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell walking, it was a sad sight. A player that once could run over linebackers as if they were tackling dummies could barely take a step.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to take that into consideration when he sits in on meetings with the players union. What physical price should players be asked to take so that the league can pull in more money?
The rookie wage scale has to happen. It doesn't make sense for an unproven 21-year-old fresh off a college campus to sign a $40 million contract before ever breaking a sweat in a practice. The NBA and NHL have rookie scales, which give young talent a chance to prove their worth before signing more lucrative deals.
Once again the fans are lost in the mix. They're the ones that monitor every minute of offseason activity with a passion that's amazing. They're the ones that treat the NFL draft - which will be held - like a national holiday.
They're also the ones that see ticket prices go up on a steady basis at a time when the national economy is a mess. Anyone that's paid for a PSL - personal seat license - has a right to more than ownership of a seat. They have the right to demand common sense in this dispute.
The logical conclusion is that the players will begin giving in once paychecks aren't handed out in September. The owners, conversely, live comfortable lives away from the game.
When Andra Davis was a linebacker for the Browns, he once went to the facility to do some work after hours. He left his wife and two daughters in the car while he took care of business.
It's not all glamour and glitz for players. It's a real-life issue that stinks as of today.
It's time for both sides to find common ground before they ruin what is a national treasure.