You may be surprised to hear that the NFL lockout is nearing an end. While NFLPA re-certification and some further legal wranglings are still lingering like a bad house-guest, the heavy lifting is essentially done and much back slapping has ensued.
Anyhow, now that we're back to the business of football as a tangible entity rather than some disembodied concept on highlight reels and bar room walls, I was reflecting on the whole process from a Raider fan perspective and how I personally felt about the entire thing.
In the beginning, I was, like every other football fan, disappointed that it had come to the point of a lockout. Like that fifth beer at lunch, we knew but didn't want to admit there was a problem back in 2008, and we just hoped it would go away. But it didn't. It got ugly.
I'm not going to go into a whole lot of detail about the legal wranglings, mostly because we've all heard it and mainly because I don't really understand a lot of it, but at this point it looks like the lockout and the NFLPA's response to it were simply negotiating ploys, as we all suspected all along.
It's really no surprise that the lockout has ended in time for the season; it was difficult to foresee any scenario where so many sane people would throw away that much money. Something, someone, would have to give. Based on the early terms, it looks like the owners gave a lot. But we shall see.
When the lockout began, as a Raider fan I was despondent. Inconsolable.
We had finally righted the ship, and the Raiders were riding The Autumn Wind back to glory once again. Prior to the lockout, though it was always looming, positive feelings about the freshly completed season were high and expectations soaring.
Hue Jackson, the man mainly responsible for the Raider improvement in 2010, was now the undisputed Captain, and it appeared he was fully and completely on board with Al Davis. Impressive names were added to the crew at every turn, and a coaching staff both experienced and innovative began to take shape.
Good things were in the air. And then...
Nothing. Litigation. Judges. Court cases. Antitrust. Billable hours. Frustration.
It has been extra torturous for Raider fans during this lockout, and not just because of the stunted growth and stifled promise of a young and building team. No, it's also because of Nnamdi Asomugha.
Nnamdi is beloved by Raider Nation for his ability, his loyalty, his personality, his philanthropy, and his Raiderness. He's been a Raider for life, he's worked his butt off to become as good as he is, and he is selfless and he is wonderful for the city of Oakland.
That's why the fact that he's rumoured to go to at least three different teams a day is upsetting. Because he's still a Raider, at least for another few days, and we want to keep it that way.
He so dominates the free agent discussion that sometimes as a Raider fan you feel like a guy with a really beautiful girlfriend who has complete strangers coming up to you and detailing all the nasty things they want to do to her the minute you break up.
We know, we know. A lot of teams want him badly. We just don't need to hear it every five minutes.
If Nnamdi does leave, then we need to replace one of the best players in the entire league. Stanford Routt has shown that he's capable of taking over the No. 1 corner role, but who will replace Routt at No. 2? And there's still the question of if Michael Huff will leave, and if he does, who plays safety?
The Raiders drafted two corners in DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa, but due to the lockout have been unable to sign or even speak with them. The lockout has hindered this team in many ways, but the young secondary, including Walter McFadden who's basically a rookie after missing most of last season, is hurting the most.
Speaking of draft choices, I must for that one day the lockout was lifted during the draft I wondered whether Al Davis would find some kind of legal trapping to sue the NFL. The Raiders were the only team without a No. 1 draft pick, and all No. 1 draft choices were picked on Day 1 while the lockout was lifted. Therefore, the Raiders were the only team who didn't get to meet any of their draft picks or provide them with playbooks and materials. By the time the Raiders drafted Wiz, the lockout was back on.
As a result, they were at a competitive disadvantage and deserved compensation. Or so my thinking on Mr. Davis' thinking went, anyway. But I knew there was no real leg to stand on; I just thought hey, once a renegade always a renegade. But he's much smarter than me and knows when to pick his battles, which is why he usually wins.
I also thought of how Mr. Davis, usually so involved in the legal and administrative aspects of the league, had taken a step way back during these negotiations and wondered if his health was playing a part. Though still sharp in the mind, he hasn't looked well physically for some time, and it's realistic to think he wanted no part of the exhausting and often frustrating tedium of these proceedings.
And then, the Raiders are the only abstaining vote on the CBA, and Mr. Davis strikes one more unconventional chord on his own terms. Amy Trask's quasi-political explanation couldn't have been better, and can anyone really say they were surprised? We can all speculate as to why Al decided to abstain, but only he knows for sure, and I'm sure he's getting a good chuckle out of it regardless.
At this point in time, I'm excited to see the feeding frenzy. At first, when I first heard the proposed timeline, I was ecstatic. Teams would be able to sign their own free agents!! I thought—wrongly, and in the heat of excitement logic didn't factor in—that we could sign Zach Miller and Nnamdi before anyone else could woo them away. And then I realized they are both unrestricted; and THEN I realized that negotiations for all teams begin tomorrow, not just in-house free agents.
Like I said, feeding frenzy. It's going to be amazing, messy, and entertaining.
I fully expect the short and intense period of roster building to lead to some GM's overspending and making bad decisions like an 18-year-old drinking tequila shots from her BFF's belly ring.
Right now, I'm excited to get the season started. There are some good safeties and corners available in the UFA's, and a few QB's that could come in and compete as backups/third stringers as well.
The Raiders have some cap manoeuvring to do, but that's never been a problem in the past. They'll sign who they want to sign if they're available, and they'll cut who they want to cut. They always have, and always will.
Rest assured the front office has a plan, and a contingency plan for the contingency plan for the contingency plan for the...and so on. The group of minds running this team is finally clear, focused, and on the same path, and the thirst and enthusiasm for good football is contagious.
We've been waiting a long time. As a Raider fan, it's been an extremely difficult offseason, having to wait so long to see what this promising young team will do with a new staff while watching one of your franchise icons prostituted around the NFL to the highest bidder in daily news stories, but it's finally over.
It's time for the Raiders to continue their march back to their rightful place as AFC West champions. It's time for some football.
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