It’s ubiquitous sports news. The National Football League negotiations with the National Football League Players Association occupy tough ground while they discuss game turf. Talks have been extended twice.
NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash detailed the efforts by the NFL and NFLPA with a hint of hope.
“I think we are at a stage where the issues have been joined," Pash said. “There has been a tremendous amount of discussion. It’s time for us really to dig, to dig deep, and try to find solutions and try to be creative and try to compromise in a way that will work for everybody.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described the ongoing process.
“As you know, we’ve extended our agreement for mediation for another seven days,” Goodell said. “We are continuing to work hard, trying to identify solutions. We believe that, as I’ve said many times before, that this will be solved through negotiations. And that’s what we’re focused on. So we’ll continue to work hard. We’ll be back next week.”
While the NFL labor negotiation battle forges on, while deadlines loom and extensions happen—the first 24 hours followed by 168 hours—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can turn their work hours into study days.
The management can now turn their focus to the “The Tweeners” and get prepared to make bold moves in the NFL draft.
Tweeners are college defensive players too small to be a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme in the NFL, but plenty big enough, if fast enough, to be an outside 3-4 linebacker.
It seems ludicrous to be saying a man is too small at 6’2” and 250 pounds, but in the matchup of 11 players on 11 players, every pound that helps to overpower an opponent counts. Some undersized pro prospects bring the proper mix of strength, speed and smarts to overcome height and reach advantages, but when consuming a draft choice is the prime concern, every pound and every inch is crucial.
Doing homework pays off. The Bucs don’t need a report card to let them know that following the availability of a running back like LeGarrette Blount and claiming him off waivers had many returns. Blount’s yards gained in 2010, along with photo-pleasing leaps over skilled linebackers, are abundant evidence of the team’s ability to pay attention and be willing to risk.
So it’s best for the Buccaneers' staff to take this time full of tension for NFL leaders and go crunch all the combine data on every prospect while evaluating many interview intangibles. While others talk and talk, they can be prepared and be ready to make swift and proper draft decisions.
As there are 19 teams making choices before the Buccaneers can select their first man, much can happen. A lot will happen after the first round that can be so decisive down a road known as much for injuries and tenuous results as for spectacular play.
It’s not yet the moment to sigh and conclude that the NFL football season, so sacred to so many fans, will go forward as planned. Snags can roar up and bring compromise to the edge of a crevasse. But recent signs point more to agreement than to stalled talks.
The NFL is coming off a record TV viewing season. A protracted lockout would stymie that momentum and replace it with unknown numbers. Fans can be fickle. Some might not return to their recent spectator ways. Indeed, many may not tune in.
That risk of popularity drop equates directly to a revenue drop, and as long as both sides, owners and players, can agree to acceptable points, profits and pay checks roll on.
NFL owners have a war chest of money ready to get them through lockouts, but it appears they prefer to tuck that reserve money in their pockets and listen to the first “hike” of the season—this year, not next year.
Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com