No one seems to be talking about it and yet it is a subject on the minds of every single person whose paycheck reads “NFL.” Pending the outcome of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there is a very real possibility that the 2011 season could lay in limbo for some time. Free agency will be affected, trades will be held up (aside from trading draft picks) and the NFL Draft could be retarded. Salary cap questions, franchise tag issues, rookie salary cap issues, inability to make trades or sign free agents in order to create roster spots, coaching hires being hindered by roster logjams. All of these are issues that could affect the business of football. It is likely that the 2011 season will be played at some point in some fashion – but no one is certain of anything more concrete.
“I timed it just right,” Allen said with a laugh. “I should be able to walk pretty well by the time I get kicked out of here. I’ll go back down to Florida and keep rehabbing down there with a personal trainer,” Allen said. “I’m lucky. If I got hurt any later, it would have been tough being out there on my own.”
The players will have to start paying for their own health care through COBRA or a similar interim insurance program, they’ll lose their offseason workout stipends, they won’t be allowed to contact their trainers or coaches and they won’t be allowed to use their team’s weight room or training equipment. The NFL will be brought to a standstill, grinding to a halt the most successful, lucrative, broad-reaching, ubiquitous sports entity in the history of evolved civilization. The reason? The NFL wants to increase revenue. More money!
The 32 NFL teams are planning to lock out the players when the current CBA expires at the end of the day on March 3. Recent negotiations have gone nowhere, and players have little reason to be optimistic. The key issue is the revenue split between players and ownership. The owners want the players to earn less, so they [owners] can keep more. The players, needless to say, aren’t in the mood to take pay cuts.
TV ratings are at record levels, as are team profits and player salaries. Even though the NFL is currently enjoying its most profitable period ever, it’s not enough for the owners, who want a larger share.
The NFL Players Association wants only to extend the current CBA. The owners are insisting not only on a higher share of revenues but also on an 18-game schedule that players believe will dramatically increase injuries, shorten player careers and dilute the product.
We are not looking at a repeat of the 1987 Strike disaster with replacement players (Spare Bears, Phoney Niners, Dallas Cowgirls) but the sweeping repercussions across the league will be noticeable.
Although there will be a draft no matter what, all other offseason plans are up in the air. Minicamps? OTAs? Training camps this summer? Opening day on Sept. 9, 2011? Without a CBA, there will be nothing and everyone will have no choice but to like it.
“I hope it gets resolved soon, because our lives are devoted to football, this is how we make our living,” Trent Cole said, “because a lot of guys are going to get hurt from this lockout, guys who aren’t fortunate to be in the position I’m in. I’ve done well for myself, but the guys who haven’t had big contracts and haven’t had big bonuses, it’s going to hurt. You might walk into McDonald’s one day and might see a running back who hasn’t been paid yet working the counter.”
The amount of money at stake is vast. One estimate — by Ad Age magazine– is that as much as $12 billion would be lost if professional football is not played at all in 2011. According to the Wall Street Journal, $1 billion would be lost just during the offseason if a CBA isn’t in place by the end of the summer. It might seem crazy that professional football players would have financial problems, but not everybody is a millionaire. For an undrafted rookie coming off his first season, that minimum NFL salary could be gone quickly if you’re not careful.
“The union told us to save our last three paychecks to make sure we had enough money,” said Eagles undrafted rookie offensive tackle Austin Howard. “But that’s not a problem for me. I save all my paychecks. I have my mom and dad take care of all that stuff, so I don’t have to worry about it.”
The NFL has enjoyed labor peace for 23 years, since the 1987 player strike wiped out a month of the season. Three replacement games were played with strike-breaking players, and those results and their statistics still count. To this day, on the Eagles’ official list of 300-yard passers, you can find Scott Tinsley’s name just above Ron Jaworski and just below Randall Cunningham. But there will be no fake games this time around — just Sundays without NFL football, as bizarre as that sounds.
“The thing is, if there is a lockout, it doesn’t benefit anybody,” Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp said. “It hurts the owners, it hurts the players and it hurts the fans, too. What are people going to do? Watch baseball? Come on. Hopefully, they find a solution, because if there is a lockout, nobody wins.”
If there are no offseason workouts at the NovaCare Complex, it will be up to the players to train on their own. Rookie draft picks won’t be in contact with their coaches and won’t have access to their playbooks. The bonding that goes on during the spring and summer between holdover players and newcomers just won’t happen, unless the players do what some 1987 teams did and get together on their own for OPA – organized PLAYERS activities.
“You’ve got to approach it the same way you have in the previous years, just expect that it’s going to get done, and then if it doesn’t get done, then you adjust from there,” tight end Brent Celek said. “The fact that we might not have anything until August or we may not even have a season — you’ve got to take care of yourself. And I know all of the guys on this team are professionals, they understand that, so you’ve got to stay on top of yourself and make sure you’re in shape and ready to go when this thing gets [resolved].”
“It might be a month into the season or halfway through the season, but there has to be football,” Tapp said. “It’s not like the NFL is gone forever. Eventually, we’ll be playing football again. I hope. ”
For more information
The NFL and the NFLPA have both set up web sites for fans to learn more about the issues facing the league and its players. The NFL’s site is www.nfllabor.com. The NFLPA’s site is www.nfllockout.com.
Eagles add Tupou, Wall to offseason roster
The Eagles added two more practice squad players to their offseason roster Thursday, offensive lineman Fenuki Tupou and safety Jamar Wall.
Tupou, 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, spent most of the 2010 season on the Eagles’ practice squad after spending 2009 on injured reserve. He was originally the Eagles’ fifth-round pick in 2009.
Wall, a rookie drafted in the sixth round this year by the Cowboys, played in one game this past season with the Texans before going on the practice squad for most of the year. He was activated for one game for the Eagles, against the Vikings, before going back on the practice squad.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org