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Monday, August 1, 2011

Why the NFL Lockout Was a Great Accidental Moment



I've only allowed one other person to guest write on this blog and that was a ghostwriter, so you know that this must be good. I'm not a sports expert myself, but my good friend known as ManoftheHour, knows EVERYTHING about sports. I asked him to deliver something of interest to a sports reader who makes his or her way over to my blog. Even I, a sports nitwit, could follow it. Enjoy!

Ever had something awful happen, and it turn out to be pretty cool? Something that, at the time the event occurred, you were sure it would be an awful blight on your life and then it turned out that it was exactly what needed to happen? For me, it was when I forgot to apply to John W. Ligon Middle School (formerly the best academic middle school in Raleigh) and wound up getting sent to Fred J. Carnage Middle School. Greatest. School. Ever.

The NFL just went through its own accidental greatness moment (I want to dub it a Carnage Catastrophe, what do you guys think?), with the 18-week lockout (the first work stoppage in over 20 years) officially over, look what has happened. The usual lukewarm offseason of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and flaccid trades has been replaced by a magma-hot Free Agency signings that have elicited twitter rants, screaming TV talking heads, and blogs waxing poetic about the joys of having America’s favorite game back.

During the past 72 hours perennial pro bowlers have been traded (Donovan McNabb, Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Matt Hasselbeck—with 17 pro bowl selections between them) , teams have changed their QBs (Arizona, Minnesota, Seattle, Tennessee, and Washington will all have new starting signal callers next year), and Carolina has added a pass-catching Tight End (this really isn’t a league-wide trend, but we haven’t had one since Wesley Walls in the mid 90s and now we have Jeremy Shockey AND Greg Olsen and I’m excited). This lockout has spurred the interest of everyone. There is a combination of relief and jubilation. It is almost like all of the blah, mediocre, mind-numbing dreck of the months of offseason, was condensed into a turbo, microwave dinner version of itself. It was fantastic.

This is great right? Over the course of the lockout, there have been several players to intimate (or tweet) that while they were interested in playing this year (and, obviously, getting paid) that they would now have the opportunity to heal from nagging injuries. Without the break, the injuries would have been re-aggravated and not allowed to mend because of the nearly endless season of conditioning and “voluntary” mini-camps that plague the mythical offseason of professional sports. Cutting down the offseason activities would mean little in the grand scheme of things. Players take better care of themselves than ever before, and so the rigorous offseason of conditioning is largely no longer necessary.

The Charlotte Observer reported that indeed, in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement the NFL has agreed with the NFLPA (National Football League’s Player’s Association) that there will no longer be two-a-days (the particulars of the CBA indicate that while teams are allowed to conduct two practices in a day, one will have to be without the use of pads). In addition, there will be more days off once the teams head to camp (which will also be later in the offseason, per the new CBA). In summation, even the NFL has acknowledged a need to scale down its activities.

The exhilaration of a new system would not come without its drawbacks. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (a player set to become the highest paid player in the league when he signs his new contract) was unable to get proper care after his neck surgery. Because of the delicacy of the procedure, and the fact that it is the second one he has had done in the past year and a half, Manning wanted to work with the Colts training staff. The staff was intimately familiar with his injuries and medical history, and had done all of his rehab since he became a professional. In addition to the player health issues that presented themselves as a result of the shortened offseason football activities, General Managers are having to make tough financial decisions in a very short period of time. Rookies have been unable to get playbooks in a timely manner are at a decided disadvantage to the veterans. The undrafted rookies could face more of an up-hill climb to make the teams than in previous years.

Still, the problems created by the new shortened offseason could be dealt with easily enough. The only reason that the players didn’t get treated by the team medical staff was because the lockout prevented management (and their other employees) from engaging in any conduct with the players. Without a labor dispute, team medical staffs would be free to treat players regardless of the duration of the offseason. As it concerns the rookies, undrafted rookies may take the brunt of the effects of the change. As viewers, however, we would experience very little drop-off in quality of play.

I just hope that the NFL takes this Carnage Catastrophe and makes the most of it.

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