The NFL's owners meet today in Atlanta and could vote to opt out of the league's labor contract.
Such a move could signal a protracted period of labor tension and lead to a 2010 season without a salary cap and a potential work stoppage the following year.
The owners have until Nov. 8 to terminate the contract. Some would prefer to do so now and hasten the way for talks toward a new agreement to replace the two-year-old contract that most owners feel has tilted too far toward the players, who get 60 percent of total revenues.
"I expect them to opt out [today] or, if not, in the near future," said Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association.
The official business of the meeting is to award the 2012 Super Bowl, with Indianapolis, Houston and Arizona vying for the game. The next three have been awarded - Tampa in 2009, South Florida in 2010, and Dallas in 2011.
At issue is the contract extension agreed to in March 2006, just before the start of that year's free agency. It was pushed through by commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who retired soon afterward. The parties agreed to extend the old pact to 2013, with the opt-out option this year that would end it in 2011.
That would include an uncapped year in 2010, which has led to speculation that free-spending owners such as Dallas' Jerry Jones and Washington's Daniel Snyder would pay huge sums to stars that poorer teams could not afford.
Another issue, of uncertain impact, is a provision of the 1993 contract that resolved the issues from the 1987 strike. It extends the time required for free agency from four years to six in the event of an uncapped year, meaning hundreds of players who normally would be on the market in 2010 would still belong to their teams.
Upshaw noted last week the players are happy with the current contract and has previously said they actually got more than they had asked in the 2006 deal.
Linebacker Dan Morgan retired yesterday, two months after the frequently injured former first-round draft pick signed with the New Orleans Saints.
Morgan, a native of Clifton Heights who played high school football in Florida, played seven years with the Carolina Panthers. He missed the final 13 games of 2007 with a partial tear of an Achilles' tendon and had at least five concussions in his career.
Carolina drafted Morgan in 2001 out of the University of Miami, where he was the first freshman to start at linebacker since Ray Lewis in 1993.
Cincinnati cut linebacker Odell Thurman less than a month after he was reinstated from a two-year league-mandated suspension.
The Bengals had staunchly supported Thurman during his suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse and conduct policies. But when he didn't show up for voluntary workouts that represented a chance to catch up, they made the move.
"Everything was fine two weeks ago," agent Safarrah Lawson said. "He left for a week to deal with the death of his grandmother, and he didn't make it back."
Coach Marv Lewis declined to be interviewed.
Offensive lineman Steve McKinney, coming back from a knee injury that forced him to miss most of the 2007 season, signed a one-year contract with Miami.