ATLANTA (973espn.com) - We are T-minus two seasons before the current CBA between the NFL and its Players Association expires after the 2020 season and the NFLPA has assembled a sizable “war chest” of money to help players if there is a work stoppage, be it by strike or lockout.

Both DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director, and Eric Winston, the former long-time offensive tackle who is currently NFLPA president, are hopeful of avoiding any kind of work stoppage but are also cognizant that their jobs are to prepare the players for the worst-case scenario.

Speaking at the NFLPA's annual press conference on Thursday, Winston said that the players have set aside millions from both union dues and royalties in case of a prolonged rainy day.

Some veterans remember that the players were locked out by the owners before the two sides came to a 10-year labor agreement back in 2011, although no regular-season time was missed.

“Every person who is part of a union or certainly every player who went through work stoppages knows that when a CBA comes near expiration, there is a limited number of options,” Smith explained. “Everything other than renegotiating a new deal is a pretty tough option. You’re going to have some type of work stoppage. Either it’s a strike or a lockout. ... It’s our job to prepare for wars that we hope we don’t have to fight.”

Winston said much of that preparation comes from four years worth of royalties from the highly-successful Madden video game series that the players agreed to put into the "war chest" just in case negotiations cut into game checks.

“[The players] have to know what they’re up against,” Winston said. “They have to know what’s coming. They have to understand, just like in a game, the tactics that are going to be used against them and have to fight against it."

Formal bargaining on a new CBA has not yet begun, according to Winston.

“I said last year we’ve talked about talking,” he said. “And that’s where it’s at. It’s one of these things where when people are ready, they’re going to get into a room and we’re going to try to figure this out.”

A number of ancilliary issues will surely draw the headlines but like most CBAs, this negotiation will come down to money.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and 973espn.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen