Hey NFL, what about your fans?

Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones exits the Manhattan law office where the NFL Players Association met with the NFL regarding labor negotiations in New York, July 15, 2011. The National Football League (NFL) moved closer to an agreement with its players on Friday that would end a four-month-old work stoppage and ensure the $9-billion league opens as scheduled in September. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

So the NFL lockout is coming to an end.




I’m overjoyed.

Actually, I was overjoyed when I wrote this piece last week. It was about how five months of frustration will vanish as soon as the owners and players agree to a new CBA. Once that puppy has been signed, free agency will begin and all will be right in the NFL world again.

Then I got to thinking: Hey wait a minute, just what did the fans get out of all this?

After months of listening to the owners and players bicker, all fans are left with is football. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a nice parting gift but we weren’t the ones who were so willing to take it away in the first place. It’s not like the fans went up to the owners and said, “We’re going to suspend football unless you reduce the price of tickets from three vital organs and $10,000 to something a little more cost effective.”

No, we just wanted football to carry on as normal and we were willing to keep spending in a down economy in order to make that happen. So I ask again: What do we get at the end of all this?

The truth is, the fans will once again walk away as losers. Sure, free agency will start again (love that free agency!) and the games will soon follow. But are the owners dropping ticket prices? What about beer or other concession items? Is parking at the stadiums going to be cheaper? I know that some teams were willing to give fans a break on season tickets with the threat of the lockout lasting all year, but what happens when the season goes on as normal? Will the owners give fans a deal just for suffering through months of their greediness?

I love the NFL and I will return. The moment the lockout lifts I’ll be one of the many people pounding the daily rumor mill to see who is signing with whom. But not once did I read about what the league planned to do for us. Granted, maybe teams have something in store for fans that I’m not privy to, but I doubt it. With the league expected to double its profits over the next two years, I highly doubt that anyone is willing to give fans a break. No, the only thing I envision happening when the lockout ends is the league standing there with its hand stretched back out.

I’m not suggesting a mutiny here, but as fans we need to remember who this lockout was all about and it certainly wasn’t us. At the end of the day, the only thing we’re going to receive is the opportunity to continue to line the pockets of those who were at the root of our frustration these past five months.


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Five months of frustration about to vanish with NFL lockout coming to an end

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks up at the scoreboard while playing the Carolina Panthers during their NFL football game in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

If you were one of the many NFL fans that said you were done watching football because of all the greed that has taken place over the last five months between the players and owners, you can officially stop lying to yourself right now. Because once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has been signed, you know damn well that the first thing you’re going to do is check the rumor mill to see what your favorite team has in store in terms of free agency.

And hey, I’m not judging you. There have been many times over the last couple of months that I wanted to say that I too was done with football. That I wasn’t going to dump a couple of hundred dollars on NFL Sunday Ticket and only further line the pockets of the super-rich. But I would have been lying to myself as well.

According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, the “economics” of the labor agreement are done and there have been several reports over the last couple of days that state the CBA will be signed anytime between now and Tuesday. Once that happens and the free agent winds start blowing, what happened over these last five months will quickly fade until nobody even remembers how nasty this entire process has been for everyone involved. People may say differently. They may say that they will never forget what has transpired and won’t return. But the truth of the matter is that the NFL is still king. As long as gambling and fantasy football (which might as well be gambling) never ceases to exist, people will continue to watch. It’s the most popular sport in America.

For those few and far between that really won’t come back, I commend you. Instead of spending countless hours this fall watching players and a game that you have zero impact on, you’ll turn a blind eye and do something else. Don’t line anyone’s pockets but your own. I wish I could do the same thing but I’m not as strong as you are. I love the NFL and no matter how much frustration it has caused fans over these last couple of months, I’m going to welcome it back with open arms once the games count in September.

Sure, like a scorned lover I won’t dive back in with two feet. I’ll proceed with caution as if the water is infested with piranha. But over time, I’ll be fully invested again. It’s football after all.

Friday Quick-Hitters:

– Brandon Marshall told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that his wife did not stab him and that he truly did slip on a vase. This is also the same Brandon Marshall who once said he slipped on a McDonald’s wrapper and wound up putting his forearm through a television set. So this is either the unluckiest, goofiest human being on the face of the planet or my man is doing some lying.

– The new salary cap in the NFL will reportedly be $120 million and will also come with a salary floor. Thus, some teams will be forced to spend money on free agents just to qualify for the salary floor. That means you, Malcolm Glazer…

James Harrison has released a lengthy statement apologizing for his harsh comments on commissioner Roger Goodell and teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall. Of course, the only thing he apologized for in reference to Goodell was his “careless use of a slang word.” Nothing like apologizing without really apologizing, eh James?

– Tom Watson hit a hole-in-one in the second round of the British Open today to give him his 15th ace of his career. I think I speak for all weekend golfers who have never hit one hole-in-one in their lifetime (not to mention 15) when I say: Congrats, Tom…you douche bag.

NFL lockout to be over by July 21?

Retired Minnesota Vikings defensive end Carl Eller enters a federal courthouse for court-ordered mediation regarding labor and revenue issues between the NFL and the NFL Players Association in Minneapolis, May 16, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL CRIME LAW BUSINESS)

There is growing belief “inside league circles” that the NFL and NFLPA will have an agreement in place that can be ratified during the July 21 league meetings in Atlanta says ESPN.com.

As one NFL owner said this weekend, there’s “no reason to believe it won’t get done.”

Other people familiar with the talks now think an agreement in principle will be put in place in the next seven to 10 days, a handshake deal that would allow each side to ratify the deal to start the 2011 season.

Of course, as usual, not all of the news is positive.

However, one member of the players’ negotiating team who has been a constant presence at the table said that players feel they have made significant concessions and overtures “that have not been reciprocated.”

He stated that negotiations Wednesday and Thursday will be the most telling days on whether an agreement indeed will be finalized within the July 21 time frame because “we’ve basically reached the limits of compromise.”

The same source added that the players have agreed to cut rookie compensation in half but won’t agree to a deal that does not allow for the rookie class to become free agents at the end of four years.

According to the article, if the deal were to be ratified by July 21, all preseason games would still be played. That said, I can’t envision a scenario in which the Hall of Fame game will still be played on August 7. Teams still have to sign rookies and free agents, get players into camp, and get them into some type of game shape so injuries don’t become a huge problem heading into the regular season. If the league were to keep the preseason games as scheduled, it could open a Pandora’s Box where players are dropping left and right because they’re not in proper game shape. I know a lot of players have been working out this entire time, but they’re still going to need 3-4 weeks to get in football shape. (If not more.)

But in terms of the lockout in general, I won’t get my hopes up until the first free agent is signed. That would signal the official end of the labor dispute. Until then, it seems like the framework of any deal between the players and owners is constructed on top of a deck of cards. The entire thing could come crashing down at any time. Still, the latest reports remain positive and as I wrote earlier this month, I believe a deal will be in place by the end of July.

Are the lawyers preventing the players and owners from negotiating a CBA deal?

James Quinn (L) and Jeffrey Kessler (R), attorneys for the NFL Players Association enter a federal courthouse to resume court-ordered mediation regarding labor and revenue issues between the NFL and the NFL Players Association in Minneapolis, May 16, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL CRIME LAW BUSINESS)

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that labor discussions between the players and owners “almost blew up” on Wednesday when lawyers were allowed back in the room.

How close it got to that point is a matter of opinion. The moment may have come shortly after lawyers from both sides were brought back into the process at an undisclosed location in the Washington, D.C., area.

As tensions rose and anger grew, two sources said NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith instructed his lawyers to “stand down.”

With the lawyers removed from the direct negotiations, the process was said to get back on track and to a good spot. The scenario is an example of just how tenuous these talks can be and how quickly they can be derailed.

But it also is the ultimate proof that Smith and his players, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners, have taken the process out of the hands of the attorneys and demanded that they control it as the two sides try to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.

What’s interesting is that this is exactly what Vikings defensive end Jared Allen told me last week when I asked him his thoughts on the lockout: “Attorneys just seem to cause problems.”

Granted, he laughed after he said it but it wasn’t the only time he mentioned how the lawyers were holding up the negotiation process. And in Schefter’s report, he mentions how during talks last winter, “many around the league worried that the lawyers were controlling the process.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the only reason there isn’t a new CBA in place right now is because the attorneys are mucking everything up. Without completely understanding the full scope of the situation or having a front row seat to the labor discussions, we can only speculate as to what’s really going on. Not even Schefter, who is as tuned in as any NFL reporter, knows unequivocally what’s taking place behind closed doors.

Let’s just hope that if the lawyers are causing problems, Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith will continue to step up to ensure that these talks continue to move forward. For the first time during this entire charade, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s not have anyone or anything derail that.

New CBA deal coming in the next 2-3 weeks?

DeMaurice Smith (R), executive director of the NFL Players’ Association, stands with attorneys Gregg Levy (C), David Boies (L) and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel (background) before he speaks to the media after attending a federal court hearing regarding labor negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association in St. Paul, April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL CRIME LAW BUSINESS)

The Washington Post’s Mark Maske reports that the NFL could finalize its new Collective Bargaining Agreement within the next 2-3 weeks.

Owners of the 32 teams, scheduled to attend a meeting in Chicago Tuesday, have been told to leave their schedules open in case the session runs late that night or spills over into the following day, said several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are at a sensitive stage.

It is possible–but very unlikely–that the owners could vote on a labor deal at that meeting, said several of the people, who did not participate in the talks but are familiar with developments. It is more likely, they said, that owners could give negotiators their opinions and a deal with the players could be completed the following week.

A deal that week, just before the July 4 holiday, appears increasingly realistic, said people on both sides of the dispute.

Others, however, cautioned that a deal between league and the players remains less than a certainty and talks still could unravel.

Rotoworld.com notes that Maske “has been one of the most plugged-in and reliable reporters on the CBA talks,” so that’s comforting. And after speaking with Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and former Titan Kevin Carter over the last two weeks, I too get the sense that the two sides are getting closer.

That said, both Allen and Carter expressed that there is still a lot that needs to be ironed out. The players are holding their ground when it comes to benefits for both current and former athletes. That’s a huge sticking point for them, as they want to ensure that the league will take care of retired players long past their days in pads and cleats.

But at the very least, it appears as though these labor talks are moving in the right direction. It’s a very good sign that the two sides are talking out of court.

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