NFL Lockout Update

Depending on what you read and who you believe, there seems to be progress in the NFL labor talks. With an agreement needed by the 14th of July for a full season schedule to take place time is not on everyone’s side. So where are we?

Face-to-face meetings this week between the owners and players association, has resulted in an air of optimism where none existed before. Terms like fragile and delicate are still being used to describe the debate over a new collective bargaining agreement but it’s believed that the gap has closed between the two sides. The court of public opinion also believes it’s the owners who need to move closer to the players. But in order to accomplish that the owners need to agree among themselves before presenting an offer to the NFLPA.

A big part of the problem lies within a few hardline owners like Jerry Richardson of Carolina who believe the players got too good of a deal in 2006 and are fervent in their desire not to repeat that mistake again even if it means losing millions this season. Up to this point it’s been the Richardson’s of the league who have held up any real progress in at least presenting an offer to the union. Unless that attitude changes the lockout which is already the longest in league history, will continue.

Barry Willner of AP who covers the NFL says “NFLPA told one player that progress is being made “but there’s still maybe two weeks to go” before a settlement is likely. The player also spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the players association.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said at those meetings. “It can be done it’s something we have to keep working at. The owners and players are meeting more often, four times in four weeks, and with more urgency and at least appear to be united in their desire not to return to court.”

The owners’ lockout of the players began March 12 and passed the 100-day mark over the weekend. But it’s the next few weeks that will really matter. If the NFL is to avoid doing harm to the 2011 season then a settlement needs to happen within the next two or three weeks at the latest. This next 21-day stretch will tell us if the entire season will be played or if we’re looking at shortened campaign. As one NFL general manager put it “The shorter the training camp, the shorter the preseason. The more camp time that is missed, the worse the damage will be”. So just when will this NFL lockout end?

Realistically the players wouldn’t care if the entire exhibition season were lost. But the key is practice time. A rush to start the 2011 campaign on time without the proper amount of training will lead to an inferior product not to mention increasing the likelihood of more injuries than ever in the league.

If you’re not drawing a check from the NFL and if you don’t own a team all of the issues are hard to dissect. All fans really care about is when will the season start. That’s it in a nutshell. Training camps are scheduled to open in late July and there’s still that little sliver of hope it could happen.

It might be too early yet to place your football wagers for week one of the preseason in August but there is still a chance it could happen.

Only time will tell. But we’re out at the two-minute warning and the owners and players need to “hurry up” if this is to be an asterisk free NFL season.

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