As we have passed beyond the 100 day mark in the NFL lockout, there are many who are starting to wonder if we will, in fact, have a 2011 NFL season or not. With rumors swirling that cover both extremes, and not much official coming from either the NFL Players Association or the owners, speculation seems to be all we have to fall back on. There are rumors that a deal is close to being made, and that the NFL season will proceed on a regular schedule; then there are also rumors that players and owners are preparing for the possibility of an 8-game 2011 NFL season. As with most things that come out of a rumor mill, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
But there has been progress this week in an official capacity. The two sides have been ordered to once again and sit down and try to work out a negotiation. Though it still appears that neither side is budging, and negotiations have been minimal, all should see this as a step towards progress. Does this mean that they are close to coming to an agreement? More than likely, it doesn’t really mean much at this point, but it could. These are court-ordered mediation/negotiation sessions and the players and owners have no choice in participating in said sessions. We will have to see “what comes out of the wash”, as they say, once this latest rounds of talks come to a close.
There is speculation that things are going well, but there is starting to be a sense of real urgency. Not only are players going to start going without paychecks – as they have already been unable to access facilities, trainers, physical therapists, and team doctors – but time is also running short for teams to actually plan and execute a full scale training camp. Many say that if a deal is not garnered before July 4th, that the ability for many NFL teams to have the proper training scenario is going to be impossible.
So what are the players doing? Surprisingly, most of them are getting down to business, even if it is on their own dime. Some players, including recently drafted rookies, were able to get their hands on playbooks and other materials during the brief injunction and lifting of the lockout. Many are studying those playbooks daily, and have made copies for all members of the team. Rookies are getting together and practicing to keep in shape at high school gyms, public fields, and so on.
Seasoned veterans and young players alike are, on their own dime, putting together small unofficial training camps so that players can get comfortable with each other, keep in shape, get the moves down, and get the new players up to speed. Basically, most of the players are doing all they can to be prepared to start doing their job – playing football – as soon as the higher ups give them the word. In the end, to fans and players, it is about playing the game, so hopefully the players and the owners can come to some sort of agreement so we can all have what we want: football, plain and simple.