February 14, 2011

The long wait until football

by Dan Bilicki In: Football

It really all settles in now. This was the first weekend without football since last August and it may be the start of an even longer wait until we see the next kickoff. Yes, for the next while we’ll all be hearing about boring labour updates as opposed to free agent news, mini-camp updates, rumoured trades and fantasy predictions. After all, how could there be a big free agent signing when there’s no CBA in effect and how could there be a mini-camp if players are locked out?

While the league’s form of revenue sharing should be the first thing hammered out, there big debate is going to be over the NFL’s schedule: Will it stay at 16 games, or move to 18? This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it also seems that some owners may have no brains.

We have seen more and more injuries in the league year to year and concussions especially have been on a shocking rise. The league has been preaching player safety all season long and now they want to put the players at risk for 120 more minutes on the field?

The Green Bay Packers became the first team in a long time to test the old saying that the healthiest team has the best chance to win in January. The Pack had more players on injured reserve than any other team in the NFC with 16. That was 30% of their original roster that was lost for the season. But, by all means, let’s sacrifice these men for eight more quarters for the extra one game of gate revenue.

Taking out two pre-season games isn’t a remedy for this plan either. The best players in the league rarely compete in the first or last pre-season contests, so it’s not like they weren’t already out of harm’s way. The only thing that the pre-season really does is help coaches evaluate guys that they have already seen workout twice a day for the past month.

I have to agree with ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons’ proposal: Add one more playoff team to each conference. It would give the owners a greater a chance to get a playoff gate, the No. 1 seed would be rewarded with a week off while the No. 2 seed would have to play and it allows for another six-plus hours of NFL football on wild card weekend.

There’s no way that the league can go to 18 games without players and fans alike rioting. We’re already seeing too many guys injured and no one should stand for it. The sad thing is that because of this, we’re likely to see some form of work stoppage this summer and protracted camps and free-agent signing period.

Let’s just hope that the league is smart enough to not follow through on an extended lockout and suffer the same way that ice hockey and baseball did because let’s face it: Both of those sports have never recovered from those two stoppages.

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