It has been three and a half months since NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman told me that the league would lose just four percent of its revenue from March-July if a lockout began on March 1. That knowledge prompted me to ask Commissioner Roger Goodell during his pre-Super Bowl press conference why anyone should expect a lockout to be solved before August. The Commish didn’t have a great answer.
Today, the owners and players will resume mediation under the guidance of Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan in Minneapolis for the first time since April 20, but it’s still difficult to envision much progress being made with the scheduled season opener still nearly four months away.
The battle between the billionaire owners and the millionaire players over how to divide nearly $10 billion is about power and public image, but the bottom line is the money. And since neither side makes much of the green stuff until the preseason, there’s little incentive to get a deal done now or during the next two months.
Even if the lockout is lifted by a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit of Appeals, the NFL will certainly bump the case up to the Supreme Court which shuts down for the summer at the end of June.
So while it’s good news that the parties will resume talking today, it’s not as if the clouds will suddenly part and a magic solution will appear.
In the meantime, the rookies drafted last month can’t receive their signing bonuses, and – except for the first-rounders – their playbooks. Free agents can’t begin to look for jobs. And coaches, especially neophyte bosses Jim Harbaugh, Hue Jackson, Mike Munchak, Ron Rivera and Pat Shurmur, are stuck in an aggravating limbo where they can’t install their schemes and — except for promoted former assistants Jackson and Munchak – or get to know their players.
All of this will likely now be crammed into a few weeks before the season starts, which I believe — knowing key members on both sides — it will.
Even if the 2011 season starts on time, a dicey possibility, its quality will surely be affected by the truncated offseason. But once the lockout began, that was inevitable.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.