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SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 16: Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers is sacked by defensive end Luis Castillo #93 of the San Diego Chargers in the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on December 16, 2010 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Six years of misery could come to a screeching halt Thursday night for San Francisco 49ers' fans.
Everything NFL is expected to come to a halt at 9 p.m. pacific time Thursday evening if the league and its players cannot agree to a new collective bargaining agreement.
With owners and players looking unable to strike a deal, many expect the league to lock out its players after the deadline passes.
That means no organized work outs, no trades and no free agency. The draft however will happen as scheduled in April.
While 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh has been busy praising Smith and saying the free agent to be should get a fresh start in San Francisco, the former No. 1 pick may lose some of his value to the new head coach if a lock out happens.
NFL teams are allowed to negotiate with their own pending free agents up until Thursday's deadline, which could get extended.
Some pundits have pontificated that Harbaugh's praise of Smith was based more having no other viable alternative at the quarterback position than out of desire to bringing the former Utah product back.
The thought being if Smith agreed to a deal before the CBA expired, he could then organize the 49ers' offensive players during the lockout, as some other veteran quarterbacks around the league have said they would do.
If that happens and Smith does not sign with the 49ers before the CBA expires, the quarterback would lose his value since he would be on the same page as any other potential quarterback the team could sign or even trade for.
That could be the silver lining in the pending lockout cloud for some die hard 49ers' fans who have actually threatened to die easy by calling local sports radio shows and threatening to commit hari kari if Smith returns.
There is of course a chance Smith could return anyway. And the whole cycle would start over again.