Lockout ruling not expected by mid-April; NFLPA won’t go head-to-head with NFL on draft night

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell departs after a day of negotiations with players association representatives in Washington March 8, 2011. The two sides are seeking an agreement as the deadline looms for a player lockout. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS)

A pair of updates on the NFL labor situation:

– Even though the owners and NFLPA will due battle in court over the validity of the lockout on April 6, a source tells ESPN’s Adam Schefter that no one should expect a ruling by mid-April.

This news is the final dagger in the hopes that free agency would start before the draft. Now teams can almost expect to make selections not knowing whether or not they’ll be able to re-sign their own free agents (or what free agents are interested in joining their team). Now more than ever it’s paramount that a team has a good general manager and scouting department in place. (In other words, yes, you’re screwed Bengal fans.)

– In separate but somewhat related news, the NFLPA has decided to schedule its draft parties so that they won’t conflict with selections made April 28-30. Originally, the NFLPA was threatening (for lack of a better word) to hold parties during the draft to discourage prospects from shaking commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand on stage at Radio City Music Hall.

Good for the NFLPA. These prospects deserve to have their moment on stage with Goodell, even if it means they’ll be whisked away to lockout land immediately after they snap that photo on stage. Eventually there will be a new CBA in place. Eventually there will be a season. Eventually this bloody mess will have a resolution. In the meantime, it’s nice to know that top prospects can still have their moment on draft day. I might be looking at the situation wrong, but to me this is also a sign of good faith by the NFLPA.

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NFLPA trying to get one representative from every team to show up at faux draft party

Peter King writes in his latest edition of MMQB that the NFLPA is trying to get veterans from every team to show up at an undetermined location in New York so that when the college players are drafted next month, they’ll have a future teammate, not commissioner Roger Goodell, greet them. This news comes a day after reports surfaced that the NFLPA has instructed prospects that were invited to Radio City Music Hall to boycott the draft. (A claim they’re now denying.)

Will it work? One agent with several prospective first-round picks thinks it will, telling me this morning: “What is the first round of the draft for the NFL? It’s a TV show, a show that makes the league a lot of money. They’re going to be asking young men to shake the hand of a commissioner [Roger Goodell] who is trying to lock them out. They’re going to be asking young men to help the league put on this big TV production. And I can tell you this: There’re a few quarterbacks who could get picked high in this draft and the NFL will invite to New York. All those quarterbacks would do by attending the draft for the NFL is giving DeMarcus Ware more incentive to knock their blocks off the first time they line up across the line of scrimmage from him.”

Forget DeMarcus Ware or any other opposing player: what would a veteran teammate do to a rookie that defied the NFLPA’s instructions not to attend the draft? Could you imagine being a first-year player who attended the draft and then had to answer to Ray Lewis once the football season resumed?

I feel bad for these college players. Don’t forget that these are just kids and they deserve the opportunity to shake Goodell’s hand and stand up on stage at Radio City Music Hall. They’re now pawns in something that hasn’t concerned them until this moment and they have to go along with it because the labor dispute is much bigger than them. It’s much bigger than shaking Goodell’s hand, standing up on stage with family and snapping that picture holding up that No. 1 jersey. It’s much bigger than the draft.

But even if they got the opportunity to take part in the normal draft festivities, the moment they shook Goodell’s hand they would enter the land of lawsuits, lockouts and labor disputes. It’s just the misfortune of being the class of 2011.

NFLPA tells players to boycott 2011 NFL Draft

Imagine you’re one of the very few athletes blessed with enough talent to be considered a top NFL prospect. You’ve earned the opportunity to hear your name called by the commissioner, to walk on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York and to snap a photo holding that #1 jersey for your new team.

You’ve earned the opportunity to enjoy that experience. But because of an ongoing labor dispute, it’s highly likely that you’ll be stripped of that opportunity now.

According to ESPN.com, the NFLPA is in the process of blocking prospects from attending next month’s draft in New York. So instead of a prospect standing on stage at Radio City Music Hall enjoying the moment with his family, he’ll be elsewhere because the owners and players can’t figure out how to best divvy up the fans’ money. Apparently the Players Association is considering showing the players on another competing network to do post-pick interviews, but it won’t be the same experience.

It’s easy to see where the NFLPA is coming from here. It’s in the middle of a financial battle and doesn’t want to take a brief timeout so that the draft (a production put on by the league) can go on as usual. The NFLPA is trying to prove that the league is nothing without the players, so why have this year’s prospects attend the draft so that the NFL can once again profit? (Plus, the NFL has already told prospects that it won’t pay players a fee in an attempt to have them present this year, so the league isn’t make the NFLPA’s decision any easier.)

That said, I feel bad for the prospects. They’ve worked hard to reach this point and now because of the labor dispute, they’ve been dealt a rough hand. If they skip the draft, then they’ll never get that moment back. If they go, then they’ll always be known as the players that defied the union. (How bad would they get it from veteran players if that happened?)

Either way, a sacrifice will be made on behalf of the 2011 NFL Draft class but oh, well. There’s always a price to be paid in situations like this and the top prospects from this year’s class are finding that out the hard way.

The NFL lockout affects more than just players and owners

Assistant coaches and lower personnel people may lose their jobs over this.

Businesses across America may suffer greatly.

Lives may be affected.

The NFL lockout is more than just millionaires fighting with billionaires over revenue. If there’s no season next year, consider how much money hotels, restaurants and shops will lose when teams and tourists don’t come to town for 17-plus weeks throughout the fall and winter. We’re already in the middle of an economic struggle, why must everyone suffer more?

Look, I get it. I know the NFL is a business, too. In fact, I know that it’s a business first and a game second. I wish it weren’t, but that’s just reality. The owners are running a business and they want to make as much profit as possible. In that regard, I don’t think they should have to open their financial books to the players. Hey, it’s their business, right? That said, how can the owners ask the players to take a paycut when they’re not willing to provide intricate details as to why?

But the bigger picture has obviously been lost here. If you don’t think the NFL has an big impact on people, think again. I’ve got a friend who served this fine country overseas and last April he woke up in the middle of the night just to watch the first round of the NFL draft. Think about that for a second: the NFL draft, not the Super Bowl, the playoffs or even an important regular season game, provided a brief distraction for a man, a soldier, half a world away fighting in a war. That’s how much the NFL can affect someone.

As it stands now, nobody will have the opportunity to enjoy the draft, or free agency, or possibly even the season because grown men can’t compromise. How ridiculous. How absurd. How unnecessary.

If I knew we had it in us, I would love to see every fan boycott the NFL if this lockout lasted until September. I would love to hit the owners’ wallet hard and for the players to actually feel the impact of what’s going on here. But that won’t happen. We love our football and we’ll be back once these greedy SOBs come to an agreement. It’s sad, but it’s also reality.

So we wait on you, owners and players. We wait on you to figure out the best way to divvy up our money. Shame on you. Shame on you for not understanding what kind of effect you have on us.

NFL Scouting Combine Thoughts: Quarterbacks

The quarterbacks performed throwing drills at the NFL scouting combine on Sunday and below are some quick-hit thoughts on how each of them fared. (Thank you NFL Network for broadcasting the scouting combine for those of us who are unable to go to Indianapolis, or have a restraining order that mandates we stay 500 yards away from Rich Eisen, whom all I wanted to do was party with.)

– For those that were concerned with the way the ball comes out of Cam Newton’s hand, there’s no need. Unlike Tim Tebow last year, Newton doesn’t have a flaw that needs to be fixed when it comes to his delivery, which is important seeing as how he played in the spread option under Gus Malzahn at Auburn.

– That said, Newton was awfully inconsistent on Sunday. His passes on the out route sailed on him and he also overthrew his receiver on one of his post-corner throws. His footwork is still a work in progress but hey, he’s learning. He has to transition from being a spread quarterback to a conventional drop back passer in the NFL, so it’s going to take time. At least at this point he has better mechanics than Tebow and Vince Young when they were preparing for the draft.

Ryan Mallett was really impressive. He has a cannon attached to his right shoulder and the ball comes out of his hand rather effortlessly. He has the best physical tools of any quarterback in the draft and at 6’6” and 238 pounds, he has the size that scouts drool over. Of course, his physical tools have never been in question. His attitude and character are what some are concerned about. Personally, I think he has Oakland Raiders written all over him. He could thrive in a vertical offense and Al Davis can’t even spell character.

Christian Ponder had himself a great day as well. He outshined Newton and all other quarterbacks in the second group, displaying very good accuracy and decent arm strength. I can’t see him going any higher than the third round, but he looked healthy and confident on Sunday. Depending on what team he winds up with, he could be a player to watch in a couple of years.

– For those who followed him at Washington, it’s not surprising that Jake Locker ran one of the fastest 40 times (4.52 seconds) of any quarterback in combine history. The guy was blessed with a ton of athleticism and he looked good throwing the ball, which had been a concern heading into the combine. He was a little inconsistent with his accuracy when throwing the dig route, but it’s hard to complain about his performance. Of course, most quarterbacks perform well when there are no defenders in their face. When teams watch film of him from last year, there will be plenty to pick apart.

Ricky Stanzi, Jerrod Johnson and Andy Dalton all struggled with their accuracy. I don’t think anyone is surprised with Johnson, but I thought Dalton would put on a better performance. Of course, where he wins teams over is with his leadership, his football IQ and his instincts. You can’t measure those things in throwing drills. I will say this about Stanzi though: the kid throws a nice deep ball (at least when he’s not facing any DBs).

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