The AP has published a story today that indicates the NFLPA has informed its members that the union's "internal deadline" to get a new collective bargaining agreement has passed. The deal expires March 3, but NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith sent out this letter today to encourage the players to begin saving paychecks and preparing for a potential lockout. The idea being that if the players are financially secure in the short term they can withstand the economic pressure of a lockout. Of course, given some of the expenses some players incur in their daily lives, one has to wonder how many would be financially prepared for a lockout.
The NFL released its own statement in which they called the deadline news "disappointing and inexplicable." While I can sense the need to press the owners to work on an agreement, this story does seem a little bizarre and randomly timed. I can only speculate at this point, but I have to wonder if the union implemented this deadline more to create a tangible need for players to save. Maybe players would be less inclined to save if they just figured something would get worked out. If you go to the NFLPA's website they actually have a lockout countdown clock, ticking down the time to March 3. Additionally, the NFLPA has gone on a PR offensive by creating NFLLockout.com to present their side of the story. This is a bit of a counter to the NFL's NFLLabor.com website.
All of this is incredibly frustrating for me as a football fan. Both sides do have specific gripes that make sense. I can see why owners would be annoyed with the monstrous signing bonuses going to rookies. I can understand the players' need for better healthcare and guaranteed contracts at some point. They both have their pertinent arguments. They have to go through the PR battle as well, but right now it seems like both sides are basically just trying to scratch each others eyes out.
I don't think this is going to mark some random end to negotiations. The sides have plenty of time to get something figured out. It just seems insane to think they would kill the golden goose and cancel any stretch of football in 2011. Of course, logic isn't always followed. We'll keep an eye on this going forward.