The general feeling around the league is that Friday’s deadline is for real when it comes to reaching a new collective-bargaining agreement. No more extensions, no more posturing — if the progress doesn’t reach its pinnacle, the players will decertify and let the courts handle the next steps.
The labor uncertainty has already had an effect on the Patriots, and if there is a work stoppage, it might actually give them a boost. For more on those topics and many others, here’s the Two-Minute Drill.
1. There’s a possibility that a brief lockout could actually benefit the Patriots, who received pamphlets that detailed offseason workout suggestions. By staying in shape, they’ll have an easier time getting back into rhythm once practices resume, and it will decrease their risk of suffering a nagging injury such as a pulled muscle.
2. It’s pretty widely accepted that players who hold out into training camp wind up with that type of injury. Just look at Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who returned at the end of camp, had a slow start to the regular season, missed time after pulling a hamstring and wasn’t himself until the second half of 2010.
3. Now, think about the ramifications for entire teams that ignore their offseason conditioning programs. The Titans don’t have anything set up in the case of a lockout. And if the CBA expires Friday night, there will no longer be any contact between players and coaches.
4. The Titans are in a unique situation because owner Bud Adams mangled the offseason with the unexpected firing of head coach Jeff Fisher, but there are player reps around the league who are asking other players — on their teams and others — not to work out to spite the owners.
5. Basically, if the owners know the players are working out with the assumption they’ll be back at practice for any given tomorrow, the owners will know their product is that much closer to resuming its full schedule. But if the players aren't working out, the owners will need to take that into consideration when setting up the remaining offseason schedule. The player reps view this as their leverage.
6. To clarify, each team has one assigned player representative who works as a liaison between the Players Association and his teammates. Matt Light, the Patriots' player rep, kept his teammates apprised of any lockout information throughout the season, and he was in charge of teaching them about the matters of decertification so they could be prepared for their team vote. But if a player rep asks other players not to work out, they certainly don’t have to listen. In other words, player reps can pass along recommendations, but they don’t have any serious jurisdiction.
7. Patriots cornerback Leigh Bodden was asked about that exact topic last week. "Other guys are going to do what they’re going to do," Bodden said."I'm just going to do what I do, prepare myself in any way possible to make myself the best player when things hopefully do get worked out."
8. So, back to the original point, if there’s a lockout, and it extends into, say, May, the Patriots should be in a good position when they return to practice because they’ve got their workout regimen. Obviously, the players don’t need to follow it if they don’t want to, but remember that they hung on every one of Bill Belichick’s words last season. There’s little reason to believe they’ll suddenly ignore him now.
9. Bodden also gave an interesting answer when he was asked if he was financially prepared for a lockout. "When I was young, I saved every penny I had to get what I want, so it's no different now that I'm 29," he said. "I'm fine with whatever happens." Interestingly, Bodden had a very similar response a year ago when he was asked about signing a four-year, $22 million contract. Just because he got a rich deal, he said he wouldn’t change his spending habits.
10. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich said he’s also always been frugal about his money, but that’s because he was unsure whether or not he’d make a team the following season. That’s why this has been a pretty exciting offseason for him.
11. Linebacker Gary Guyton is at Mardi Gras, and he apparently has his own float, too.
12. Patriots defensive lineman Marcus Stroud had to be excited to quickly land on his feet after he was released by the Bills, and that should soothe the pain of his massive paycut. Stroud was on the books for $10 million during his last two seasons in Buffalo, but his salary is worth $2.9 million over two years in New England. He can also reportedly earn as much as $600,000 in incentives over the life of the deal, bringing its potential worth to $3.5 million.
13. Based on Stephen Neal’s reaction last week, he sounded comfortable with his decision to retire, but it’s pretty amazing that the potential lockout impacted his decision. Neal is still rehabbing his right shoulder, and if he remained under contract during a lockout, he would not have been able to work with the Patriots' medical staff. Since he retired, he won't face any limitations in that area. I don't think Neal would have returned if this had been a traditional offseason, but the fact that he mentioned the implications of the lockout shows another degree of how this situation can impact different players.
14. I’ve been intrigued about wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker’s talent for a few years, but this is a pretty damning indictment against the free agent. According to the report, Sims-Walker couldn’t adjust to defenses that pressed him, whined when he didn’t catch passes, even in victories, and was suspended for a game because he blew off curfew to party all night. He might not be suited for the Patriots as a low-risk pickup after all.
15. Apparently, the ball "never hit the ground" when Marc Bulger was leading the Ravens’ offense in practice last season. Since Bulger hasn’t completed 60 percent of his passes in a season since 2006, I question the level of hyperbole of the source, as well as the complexity of Baltimore’s practices.
16. Jeffrey Kessler was absent again during Tuesday’s mediation sessions between the NFL and NFLPA, according to the NFL Network. At least one report Monday night indicated Kessler would be present for Tuesday’s session. If you don’t know Kessler or why this is noteworthy, read this.
17. I like everything about Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, even the fact that he’s got the guts to step up and say they can go 16-0 in 2011, but that quote is probably going to come back to bite him at some point. The Lions have won eight total games in the last three seasons, which includes the oh-fer in 2008, and they haven’t won at least eight games in one single season since 2000.
18. Suh is one of the faces of that franchise, and he should — if he isn’t already — turn into the undeniable defensive leader. By making that statement, Suh could trigger the rest of the Lions to line up behind him and follow his lead. They might be realists and know they’ve got no shot at a perfect season, but if Suh is the hardest worker on the team next season, they’ll have to look at themselves in the mirror and keep pace because he has set the bar high.
19. Maybe I’m not thinking clearly, but I don’t think there will be a lockout. If there is a work stoppage, it will be the owners’ faults because they aren’t being reasonable with their demands. They want an extra billion dollars but won’t tell the players where the money will go. They want 18 games but haven’t given the players any incentive to accept the proposal. And they tried to screw over the players by negotiating new broadcasting deals that would set up the owners with a $4 billion cushion in the event of a lockout.
20. For more details on what it will take to finalize a new CBA, check out my report from last week. Once the two sides come to terms on the financial aspects and the 18-game schedule, the rest of the details should be relatively easy to iron out.