Stephen Burbank, special master of the NFL, will be in Manhattan on Tuesday holding a hearing which may go a long way in deciding what strategy the owners will take in the upcoming labor dispute with the players.

Burbank, who was appointed by a federal judge to oversee owner and player disputes, will listen to a number of witnesses and determine whether or not the owners can collect 2011 TV rights fees from Fox, NBC, ESPN, CBS and DirecTV if there are no games because of a labor action.

The owners TV partners are going to underwrite a lockout and the players are fighting back and are asking that the money, which totals about $4 billion, is put into an escrow account to keep out of an owners' war chest.

If Burbank rules that the money can be used, that plays to the owners advantage. But if he rules against them, then the lockout will likely be a short one.