NFL Lockout: End could finally be in sight

Steve O Speak

It has dragged on nearly 3 months now, but with yesterday’s ruling by the 8th Circuit Court that kept the stay in effect we now could see some serious movement. The court’s decision not only kept the players locked out until the June 3rd Appeals hearing, but in very strong language they made it clear that the lower court’s ruling overreached, and would likely be overturned in the Appeals hearing next month.

While this might seem like bad news for the lockout as the Players who had the leverage just lost it, I think it could (or at least should) finally bring the two sides together. Some people might not like it, but the best thing for football fans was to have the players lose this ruling. Not only does this curtail any shot of some of their crazy proposals (eliminating the draft, salary cap rules and restrictions i.e. parity in the league, etc.) coming to fruition, but it should break their unified front.

As much as people like to talk about the ‘greedy’ owners and such, the real culprit here was the various tiers of players. The longer this lockout lasted the more it hurt hundreds of players around the league. Under no proposal the owners offered would that many players be really affected. But with the lockout in place, anyone who hadn’t been on a 53 man roster for 3 years, wasn’t eligible for the lockout funds. These are the players who have made the least amount of money in their careers and couldn’t get any support. It also affected the largest free agent class (based on only needing 4 years of service time) in the history of the sport, who have now had to wait around and watch potential suitors dry up as they fill their needs in the draft instead. Yes the Owners coming out on top could lower some free agent signings, but nothing drastically. We are talking about a guy who might have signed for $6 million a year sign for $5.2 million, I doubt we are going to see too drastic of a drop in salaries. And most of it will come from the top guys who make 8 figures a year. Also, players will be able to stop paying for their own insurance, personal trainers etc. Finally, the sooner the lockout is lifted guys will be eligible for their workout and roster bonuses, which has to be big selling point among current players. Before the Players “Union” could say they had the advantage and they might be able to increase benefits and minimum salaries, but I don’t think they can sell that any longer.

Now with the Players backed into a corner the NFL needs to ensure that they win gracefully and not be seen as beating up on a defenseless opponent. Now isn’t the time for the NFL to go for the ‘kill’, as they are likely to get more and more fan support in the coming weeks. If they do this right, and are seen as the ones to unite the two sides, the league can come back stronger than ever. If they do this wrong and try to hammer a bad deal to the players down their throat it will likely make people a little less inclined to support the league.

I think given the current situation the NFL will do the right thing and find a good compromise between the two sides, before their June 3rd court date. The sooner this lockout ends now the sooner everyone wins, and my guess is we will see the new league year start on June 1st.

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