NFL Lockout: What Would It Mean for Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons?
As we inch ever closer to a lost 2011-12 NFL season, I've found myself pondering what exactly I would do without being able to watch my Atlanta Falcons attempt to repeat as NFC South champs.
For various reasons, few things captivate the minds of United States sports fans like professional football.
Whether it be the sheer brutality of the sport, the importance that is placed on each game due to a relatively short season or the simple fact that these are widely regarded as the best athletes in the world, there's just something about the game that draws us in.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that I have no idea what I'd do without football, so hopefully this whole thing gets worked out before too long.
Taking it away from a personal level, I've also been a bit worried about what exactly would happen to the Falcons organization if a season-long lockout did take place.
One burning question I've had is this: Precisely what becomes of existing contracts?
Based on some Internet searching, it's my understanding that player contracts will become binding again once the lockout ends. Okay, that's nice, but what if there's no season?
Let's just say that no agreement is reached between the owners and players until next March. What happens to the current deals?
With an inability for teams to sign free agents this offseason, obviously those who were set to hit the open market will do just that. What about players who were preparing for a splash into free agency during the 2012 offseason, though?
Would the contracts simply carry over, with however many years were remaining being counted for the upcoming season(s), or would those players indeed be free of their deals?
Because if the latter is the case, the Falcons are in some trouble.
Atlanta has a number of key players who became free agents at the end of this past season. Among those in this group are Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, Justin Blalock, Jason Snelling, Stephen Nicholas, Mike Peterson, Brent Grimes (restricted), Matt Bryant and Michael Koenen.
Until something gets settled, none of these players can be re-signed.
If there is no season and player contracts do indeed expire following what should have been the 2011-12 season, this list would grow to include John Abraham, Curtis Lofton, Thomas DeCoud, Todd McClure, Kroy Biermann and Harry Douglas.
You see why this is causing me anxiety? It would be extremely difficult to keep all these players, not to mention the fact that some of them would be washed-up by the time a 2012-13 season rolled around.
This is not good, folks.
Think about what else no season would mean for the franchise.
First off, it would be a wasted year in Matt Ryan's development. You can only learn so much from watching film, and he needs to get as much game experience as possible.
While Abraham had a good season in 2010, he's certainly nearing the end. Even if the team did bring him back for the 2012-13 year, would he even be good anymore?
The same goes for Tony Gonzalez. The sure-fire, first-ballot of Hall of Famer clearly isn't what he used to be. He's lost the ability to pick up yards after the catch and had more drops last season than he's probably had in his other 13 NFL years combined.
Can anyone reasonably believe he would be capable of bouncing back after a year-long layoff at the age of 36?
And then there's Michael Turner, whose legs would have another year added onto them in the event of a lockout. Unless I'm mistaken, older running backs don't fare too well in this league.
Another thing to consider is the emotional effect all of this would have on the players.
Those on the Falcons roster surely cannot wait to get back on the field and attempt to erase the memory of that awful playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. In fact, I'd go as far as to say these guys need to get out there.
There's a good chance the Falcons would enter the 2011-12 season with an edge and some chips on their shoulders.
That game was humiliating.
Professional athletes are constantly looking for added motivation, and this bunch doesn't have to look far.
That's actually one of the things that excited me about next year. These guys have shown a willingness to do what is necessary to get to the top, and last season was a huge step forward toward becoming a championship franchise.
My hope was that the postseason dismantling would light an inextinguishable fire under the Falcons—one that would propel them to heights never before seen by the city of Atlanta.
If they can't step on the gridiron and play, though, it would only be natural for that impetus to wear off. After all, how long is it really worth holding a grudge for?
To sum all of this up, I really hope there is NFL football being played come September. There seems to be no good that can come of a lockout, and the effect one could have on Atlanta has the potential to be especially damaging.
If we do lose this season, I just might have to sign up and become a believer in the Falcon Curse.
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