Sports Commentary: NFL lockout deadline draws near

What will the late months of 2011 and early months of 2012 be like if there is no football to be watched?

Unfortunately, if NFL owners and players do not figure out a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) before March 3, NFL fans across the country could witness the NFL’s first play stoppage since 1987. With limited progress in talks between the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and the league owners, it seems almost inevitable that we could be on the edge of our seats this whole summer, wondering whether or not our team will be on the field starting in September.

The most baffling disagreement between the NFLPA and the league owners is the argument over whether or not there should be 18 regular-season games instead of the normal 16 games that are currently scheduled.

The owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell seem convinced that the NFL will greatly benefit if the season is prolonged to 18 games, giving fans more of what they want and, of course, creating more revenue.

However, Goodell has also stressed the importance of player safety this past year, which makes for a bit of a predicament. If Goodell is so much for player safety, he wouldn’t be pushing for an extra two games that the players have to go all out for. Just this past season, the New Orleans Saints were down to their fifth-string running back in the playoffs, putting them at a severe disadvantage. In such a high-contact sport, adding more games is anything but caring for “player safety.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that.

Although the push for 18 games may be the most baffling of the arguments, the whole collective-bargaining agreement is based on both the revenues that the owners make and the salaries that the players make. The NFL estimated $9 billion in revenues last year, and the split of the revenues seems to be the main disagreement between the two sides. It seems as if the owners are asking for a much greater proportion of the revenues than the last CBA detailed, which is obviously meeting heavy resistance from the NFLPA.

Since the sides have such distinguishable differences, the NFLPA and owners have agreed to have a U.S. Congress mediator become the “messenger” for the two sides. Just yesterday, the mediator came out and was fairly pessimistic about the talks, saying that there was some progress, but not enough to get a deal done by the end of the week — which is when the owners will either lock out the players or the player union will decertify. That would prevent the owners from locking the players out and essentially continue on with the season.

Other than the grave statement from the mediator, we have not heard much from either side of the negotiations, most likely because of all the media hype it has already garnered. People are tired of hearing that negotiations were contentious, or that the two sides are no closer than they were the week before.
So, what will those football months be filled with if football is locked out? Major League Baseball would definitely be “happy,” considering that the MLB playoffs happen during the NFL mid-season point, which definitely increases the number of viewers. For the fan who likes contact, you may have to settle for some Arena Football League, or you may even have to watch a different sport, like hockey.

Not only does a lockout provide a huge problem to the fans, but it obviously has a greater effect on players. Coaches will not be allowed to be in contact with anyone on their teams during a lockout, hence leaving the responsibility of “offseason practices” to the captains of their respective teams.
Just last year, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez organized a “Jets West” camp in California, which allowed him to get to know his wide receivers better in an effort to continue his growth in the passing game.

However, a potential lockout will not only affect training camps during the summer, but also players who are being drafted in 2011 along with the 2011 “free agent class.”

Depending on the length of the lockout, the rookie class will have to wait until they sign big salaries, which is always a high risk for a bust. Also, those who are free agents will almost surely be signed to one-year contracts, because there will be a shortened free agency period once an agreement is reached.
The NFL lockout could be the biggest thing to happen in sports since Lebron James decided to take his talents to South Beach. Not only this, but the NBA and MLB also seem to be working on new CBAs at the moment, and it does not seem too optimistic that the NBA will be able to agree with any association on any financial prospect.

Here’s to hoping that we don’t have to eat our chips and salsa while watching the first season of Roseanne instead of Week 1 of the NFL regular season.