Well, I guess since everyone else is doing it, I’ll throw a prediction in the ring as well.
Several reports say that the lockout is a week or two away, free agency potentially sooner. John Clayton figures sometime in the July 15th range simply because any later would mean missing pre-season games and such. Adam Schefter is in a similar time-table.
I’ll start by saying I’ve been in the optimistic boat. I never felt games would be missed because of the lockout, simply because there is too much money that stands to be lost if there are games missed.
With reports today that the lawyers have returned to the negotiations, I fully expect the lockout to be concluded in the next week. I believe both parties came to some sort of realization that the lawyers and legal system were causing significant problems through rhetoric and delay. Once both parties realized this, they began serious negotiations and seeing as they’ve been going at it for a couple of weeks without the legal aid, I’m estimating that the reason the lawyers have returned is to iron out the details. I’d still guess that work needs to be done in terms of the framework for a deal, but without legal advice they can’t really put together a legal document.
There’s a high, high probability that I’m wrong here, but there is an overwhelming sense of optimism that has permeated these talks. With negotiations this large, and encompassing this many people with twitter accounts and such, there’d be more negative press out there if things weren’t going as well. I think that the players and league realized that they were losing fans. For instance, check ESPN and you’ll see that there are few segments on Sportscenter about football. Plaxico is the big deal and that’s about it.
There’s a void out there towards football. A general disinterest in anything other than progress. Summer has settled in and with it indifference towards the NFL labor work. I think that has scared both parties a little, particularly owners who – to their credit – have pushed harder to get back to the table (probably because they would likely win the lockout case but we’ll give credit where credit is due). Hopefully we’ll have free agency soon and an end to this…. desert of NFL news.
One last thing before we conclude. Looking back at these talks, how foolish does the NFLPA strategy to de-certify and move to legal proceedings look now. Almost 2 months has passed since they elected to abandon the negotiations, all because they were unwilling to sit down and talk with the owners in a serious manner. Don’t mistake me here, the owners and Commissioner Goodell threw as much negative rhetoric out there as the players, but they continued to send offers to the players, who simply (according to reports) refused to present a counter. They took it and waved to the press about how it was “the worst deal in sports history.” Combine that with their desire to enact a court battle and we get two months of wasted negotiating time that could have been spent going back and forth.
With de-certification as an ace up their sleeve, they could have waited until much later to file the case and in fact cause the NFL to miss games and hurt the owners revenue while still continuing negotiations. Instead they gained little leverage through the legal battles and are right back where they started. Still, if there’s football in September, we’ll all be happy for it.