Only a few are willing to predict there won't be an NFL season in 2011, not with $9 billion at stake for the owners and players.
As the current lockout threatens to go from weeks to months and the off-season from delayed to non-existent, the bigger question facing the country's most popular sport is this: Will the games that are played be NFL quality?
Imagine an off-season where players are absent from a conditioning program, organized team activities and minicamps. Then imagine a training camp that features a cross section of athletes whose physical conditioning will range from excellent to embarrassing.
It could be a disaster.
"We talked a lot about that," said former Green Bay Packers strength and conditioning guru Dave Redding, who retired in February, fully turning over the reins to associate Mark Lovat. "Some guys who don't have structure are going to have problems.
"I'm not naming names, but you're going to have guys who shut it down and don't do anything. Then when they come back, I think you'll see an issue in training camp. The bigger linemen will have more problems. You'll have muscle pulls and more fatigue injuries. You'll see issues with hamstrings and quads."
Under coach Mike McCarthy, the off-season conditioning program and subsequent OTAs have been as important to the season as training camp. McCarthy stressed having full participation in on-site training and was successful in getting even older veterans to stick around town for a good part of the off-season.
Perhaps the most effective part of McCarthy's program was the development of young players, particularly rookies and practice squad players. Last year, McCarthy leaned a lot on his rookie class due to an injury epidemic, and many of them developed faster than they could during an off-season.
But there remains a group of young players who because of injury or lack of playing time who would benefit greatly from being around the program right now. Among those players are safety Morgan Burnett, end Mike Neal, linebackers Brad Jones and Frank Zombo and tackle Marshall Newhouse.
Then there are others like running back James Starks, end C.J. Wilson, lineman Nick McDonald, cornerback Josh Gordy, tight end Andrew Quarless and receiver Chastin West who have a chance to make big strides before heading into training camp.
"We'd like to have that off-season," McCarthy said recently. "We feel the off-season program's a strength of ours. It's so important for players to go from Year 1 to Year 2. That's where you make your biggest gains."
Redding was instrumental in developing a program that stressed football-type movements and prepared players for a quick transition to training camp. Once camp began, McCarthy was able to focus more on teaching his system than getting his players in shape.
Last season, McCarthy didn't have any players who reported out of shape and were required to do extra conditioning before being cleared for football activity. In the week leading up to the intrasquad scrimmage, only four players had suffered muscle- or joint-related injuries.
If the lockout lasts until the summer and players are left to train by themselves, the odds of such a clean start diminish greatly.
"Guys who don't do as much running, lifting and stretching will have their problems," Redding said. "One third of the guys will do what they're supposed to do. You won't have to worry about them. One third, with a little badgering and convincing, they're OK.
"One third would just watch TV."
It's unclear how long the lockout will last and how much it will cut into the off-season program.
Due to the Super Bowl run, McCarthy didn't plan on starting his off-season program until mid-April. If a federal judge deems the owners' lockout illegal and business resumes as usual, the Packers will be no worse for the wear.
But if the lockout continues all the way to training camp or beyond, wide-ranging changes will be required to account for the lack of football activity. Training camp will be a throwback to the days when players actually used it to get in shape.
"They're going to have to be very careful in training camp," Redding said of the worst-case scenario. "You'll have to be more sensitive to injury, and it will last all summer. If there's no off-season training and no OTAs, you'll have to be careful.
"It will be hard to keep guys healthy. Playing football gets you in shape to play football, that's why OTAs and football movements are so important."
Redding said he had no doubt that many players would work as they normally do with their personal trainers, but the group activity they took part in at the facility provided structure and consistency in the way they trained. When the players get back, the coaches will be challenged to structure practice so that it fits the many different levels of conditioning they'll see.
McCarthy already had plans to structure his training camp in such a way that it taxes the players less than it did in previous years, but that was based on the 24-game schedule the team endured last season. Throw in the lockout and McCarthy will have to be particularly creative in coming up with a workable schedule.
"I've already adjusted that," he said. "I'm in tune with it."
The one thing he can take solace in is that the rest of the league will be working from the same lockout-related disadvantage. No teams are going to arrive at training camp the same way they did last year, if the lockout goes deep into the summer .
"Right now, you just plan for the absolutes," McCarthy said. "The other things are hypotheticals."