NFL: Goodell says there will be a season
NEW YORK — There will be an NFL season in 2011.
That’s what Commissioner Roger Goodell keeps saying. So do many of the owners and lots of players, even though labor talks collapsed, the union decertified, and star players including MVP Tom Brady filed an antitrust lawsuit to prevent a lockout hours before the league even implemented one.
Despite all the nasty rhetoric of last week, no one would paint the doomsday scenario of no football come September. Instead, we hear Chargers president Dean Spanos say, “We will get through this. There will be a new agreement and we’re looking forward to playing football this season.”
Are they right? And how will they get there?
Owners, players, NFL executives, it didn’t matter who you asked: Saturday was a dark day for pro football.
In the wake of the players’ union decertifying Friday, then filing antitrust lawsuits, followed by the league staging a lockout, it took some searching to find any brightness.
The optimism came in trickles, focusing on the amount of time remaining before the 2011 season is scheduled to kick off.
“Going into these union negotiations, I was very optimistic that an agreement could be reached before the end of December if both sides were committed to the negotiations,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a member of the league’s labor committee who has been visiting Israel while talks collapsed. “The same was true as we approached the end of the NFL calendar year. We are fortunate to be operating in an industry that is thriving and I know that there was a deal to be done that was a win-win for both sides.
“While disappointed by (the NFLPA’s) action to decertify, I remain confident that an agreement will be reached and that the 2011 season will be played. For the sake of all involved, the owners, the players and most importantly, the fans, I hope we return to the negotiating table very soon.”
So does Hall of Famer Mike Ditka, who sees nothing but losers right now.
“I don’t know who wins,” said Ditka, a prominent voice for helping retired players. “Decertificiation, I disagree with it. I think there is enough in the game they can split it up and be happy. But evidently they don’t feel that way.”
Many teams issued statements Saturday about the league’s first labor stoppage in 24 years. In about a week, some teams were set to begin offseason workouts. While they will continue their preparation for April’s draft, which was protected under the collective bargaining agreement that expired Friday, there isn’t much other business to do.
Still, those clubs tried to reassure fans that they wouldn’t be idle.
“Some aspects of this offseason may look different,” Bears president Ted Phillips said, “but our commitment to winning remains the same. We need to build off the success we had in 2010. We will do our best to create opportunities for Bears fans to ask questions and keep them informed of what is happening with their team and the labor discussions.”
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