Nobody likes the NFL lockout. Not the owners, not the players, and especially not the fans.
At the same time, labor negotiations can be a necessary evil if they produce significant changes for the better.
Work stoppages in the past have given life to such major additions to the sports landscape as long-term contracts, salary caps, and even free agency.
The 2011 NFL lockout will be judged by what changes it produces in the game of football.
Here are the 5 changes that the owners and the players should be focusing on.
Not the most compelling topic, but a very important one.
As anyone who has ever played football knows, the aches and pains you earn on the gridiron tend to have a way of staying with your body for life.
The tales of former players who can barely walk are countless, and they deserve to have their well being taken care of.
Not only are health care benefits needed, better retirement benefits are necessary too. Not all NFL players make the kind of money they can live off for the rest of their lives, and most leave the league with no other skills with which to make a living.
These players make insane amounts of money for the owners, and give us fans so much entertainment.
They should be taken care of when their playing days are over.
The glory days of NFL owners tricking the local citizens into financing their expensive stadiums is over.
Either due to the recent financial hardships that have affected many or just because the voting public has finally gotten wise to the scam, owners have to put up their own money to finance stadiums now. Stadiums that are getting more and more expensive to build.
When Jerry Jones put up a billion dollars to see his new grown man’s playground come to life, he laid down the gauntlet to the rest of the league. If you’re an owner that wants your team’s new home to keep up with the Joneses you have to put up obscene amounts of your own money.
The league can fix this problem by making all the teams pay into a stadium construction fund. The NFL already shares so much of it’s revenue — to a great deal of success — so why not share the cost to build the new generation of iconic stadiums?
The storm cloud hanging over football right now.
Not just the NFL, but the entire game.
Players at all levels are getting bigger, faster, stronger all the time. The level of size and speed they're bringing to the on-field collisions is causing head injuries at an alarming rate.
The NFL is the most visible of all football governing bodies, and as such has a real responsibility to lead the way in taking steps to reduce debilitating brain injuries.
The new rule that teams will be punished for the hits their players unleash on the field is a good start. The rule says that teams will be fined for the hits, but does not exclude more severe punishments like taking away draft choices.
I like the hard stance, but the league won’t win the battle against concussions with punitive actions alone.
Instead, they need to focus on changing the culture of the game through proactive measures like mandating the use of more protective helmets.
The players don’t want to extend the regular season to 18 games because they say that the injuries will be too much.
But for this idea to work you are really only replacing a couple of exhibition games with a couple of real games. If you're going to ask the players to suit up and bang bodies on the field, you should at least make the games count right?
Normally those last two preseason games are used to evaluate the rookies and other players who are on the fringe of being cut.
After months of minicamps, weeks of two-a-days and two exhibition games, if you don’t know how good your players are you don’t need more fake games. You need better talent evaluators.
After all, more football is better, right?
This is the big one. This is the one thing that has been dragging the league down for years.
The bad teams in the league each year are forced to pick in the top 10 of the draft, something that should be an advantage but has turned into a burden. Whoever the team picks will eat up a major portion of their salary cap, all without ever showing what they can do on an NFL field.
If the player turns out to be a bust the team is unfairly punished going forward.
The track record of top 10 draft picks has proven that even the best talent evaluators can get some picks wrong.
If your team is in the bottom of the standings you need to be able to take a chance on a college player, a chance that shouldn't prevent your from being competitive for years if they turn out to be the next Ryan Leaf.
The type of money that these rookies are getting should be going to proven veterans instead, at least then teams have a better idea of what they’re getting for their investment.
The NFL needs to adopt rookie pay rules much like the NBA does. This allows teams to move forward if they waste a top pick on a player who turns out to be a bust.