After a weekend off, the NFL and NFLPA were back in the bargaining room Monday, negotiating under the auspices of federal mediator George Cohen for the 12th time in 18 days. And while there’s no word at this point on the specific progress (or lack thereof) made in today’s meetings, it’s becoming apparent that the two sides are once again destined to work right up to the Friday deadline.

A source told Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal that “optimism … should be tempered.” That’s because the league and the union are reportedly $750 million apart.

At the beginning of this process, they were $1 billion apart.

Earlier today, I wrote a blog post on the NFL’s closed books and how the union’s desire for financial transparency is becoming a very important aspect of the ongoing negotiations. That’s becoming a consensus at this point in time, and it continues to be something the NFL stubbornly refuses to budge on.

Because of the financial gap reportedly separating the owners and the players and the league’s unwillingness to cave on access to financial information, the sense of optimism that surrounded events on Thursday and Friday has faded slightly. For example, CBNC’s Darren Rovell wonders if the sides are once again just working toward establishing enough momentum to simply merit another extension of the deadline.

But things also looked bleak early last week, and with a deadline looming the parties found enough common ground to extend talks … twice. Now, they’ll likely dig in for three or four days before once again making concessions with 5:00 p.m. ET Friday quickly approaching.

The key, I suppose, would be to at least get that deadline extension. If the owners and the players hit a wall now, they’ll have pretty much wasted a week. Decertification nearly happened last Friday; if it happens this Friday, we could be in for a very long work stoppage.

On the other hand, there’s a chance that the more extensions we have, the less likely the two sides will be to treat these deadlines like real deadlines. Progress is made when the two parties feel the pressure of being against the clock, so if we continue to stop the clock, we might not see either side feel a tremendous amount of pressure until the summer’s in full swing and the regular season is looming.

Once players start losing legitimate training camp paychecks, things will change. We just have to hope that the league and the union are mature and wise enough to come together and get something done before things get that bad.