The Chicago Bears are focused on their usual business of trying to win football games. However, from time to time the players need reminding that the NFL is not just a game. It’s a business. One that commands a lot of money and dividing that money can often become a point of bitter contention between the players and the owners. That is the way its been for decades, often leading to work stoppages on a number of occasions.

From 1970 to 1987, players enacted three notable strikes against the league over pay and benefits. Then in 2011, the owners struck back with a lockout that nearly went into the regular season before a deal with hammered out at the eleventh hour. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was set with a 10-year lifespan, meaning a new one would have to be discussed in 2021. This wouldn’t be a big issue if the players and owners were relatively on the same page.

Time has proven that is far from the case. There are several problems that are likely to stall negotiations from revenue splits, to stadium credits, the franchise tag, lifetime healthcare, the drug policy, and overall power of the commissioner. The league has tried to put a positive spin on talk with the NFL Players Association, believing a deal can be worked out before a stoppage becomes necessary in a year and a half.

The NFLPA doesn’t seem to share that same optimism.

Chicago Bears and other teams warned stoppage is likely

DeMaurice Smith, director of the NFLPA, has reportedly been making the rounds to all 32 teams in recent weeks to speak with players about the upcoming CBA issue. One of the problems that frequently get run into with work stoppages is many players are totally unprepared for them, which can lead to serious financial trouble because they failed to save up some money. Smith’s goal is to make sure every single player knows that the possibility is real this time and may even be likely.

USA Today caught wind of the presentation he’s delivered to them.

“WORK STOPPAGE IS COMING. #STAYREADY”

The tone in the union meeting regarding the possibility of a deal in the coming months is guarded.

“The deal’s not done. I don’t have optimism, I don’t have pessimism,” Smith told USA TODAY Sports. “The reality is, we’re talking, but we’re far apart. … Either the deal is done and you could relax and not prepare for a work stoppage or the deal isn’t done and you can’t relax and you need to prepare for a work stoppage.”

Anybody who has followed the league closely over the past couple of years could tell that the division between owners and players was as wide as ever. There are a ton of issues that need working out and some of them are bound to have one side or the other dig their heels in on. A year and a half may sound like a long time to reach common ground, but when billions of dollars are at stake that is really no time at all. It could be a tumultuous year in 2021 for football fans.