With the ongoing NFL lockout nearing its third month and teams less than two months away from the typical start of training camp, the focus, currently on players and owners, could all too quickly begin a rather disheartening shift to our very friends and neighbors.
On Friday, June 3, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the NFL's appeal of Judge Susan Nelson's ruling of injunction, which would have effectively ended the lockout. But, the panel of judges may have already tipped their hand as to which direction they might be leaning.
"We have serious doubts that the district court had jurisdiction to enjoin the League's lockout, and accordingly conclude that the League has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits," the Eighth Circuit Court stated in their ruling, granting the league's request on a stay of injunction until the appeal could be heard.
It's unlikely that we'll have an answer on this Friday, but should the court rule in favor of the league shortly thereafter, it won't be the players, coaches or owners who will be most impacted. In fact, if that happens, this entire mess will get ugly in a real hurry.
From ticket-takers to concessions staff; low-level coaches to team training staff; league and team office personnel; restaurants and bars; writers and reporters; free agents and rookies; the list goes on and on. Every one of these people -- every one of these jobs -- will be impacted on a level that goes far beyond the spat between millionaire and billionaire players and owners.
Jobs may be lost, lives will be impacted, and families will suffer if these two sides cannot reach an agreement before the start of the season.
Teams across the league have already announced plans to cut salaries and impose layoffs. The Arizona Cardinals initiated a one-week forced furlough for all non-contractual employees. The Buffalo Bills have already imposed pay cuts up to 25% for all personnel. In addition, they cut all staff pensions. The Miami Dolphins have cut the salaries of employees making approximately $50,000 to just over $42,000 with similar percentage cuts across the board.
It's unfortunate -- to say the least -- that the mere 15% pay cut lost to a family down in Miami is of far greater impact than a lost game check or two to most players.
The Chicago Bears have promised their staff that there will be no layoffs, furloughs or "immediate pay cuts" until actual games are lost.
But it's not just NFL and team personnel who are already feeling the blow from just three months without professional football. Rookie free agents all across the country are in a metaphorical limbo as they await a resolution.
Chicago Bears Huddle talked to one rookie free agent, Alex Kube, who had a workout with the Bears this offseason. Kube, was recently offered a contract from the UFL and had to make a very tough decision whether to accept the deal or take his chances with the lockout.
"I've decided not to pursue the UFL," Kube said. "My dream is to play in the NFL and I want to wait and see what happens. I did very well at pro day and made teams know my name, so I find it in my best interest to wait until the lockout is over."
But the lockout, even as it stands today, is going to make it even harder for an undrafted rookie like Kube to impress a team and make it through final roster cuts. OTAs and minicamps have already been claimed by the work stoppage. The less time a player like Kube has to learn the playbook and impress the coaches, the harder it will be for him to fulfill his dream.
"At this point, I should be signed with a team in camp," Kube said. "It's a day to day waiting game. I am working and will continue to perfect my craft so when the call comes, I'm ready. I understand that I am going to have to eat, sleep and live with the playbook 24/7 the minute its handed to me. Once the lock out is lifted, I hope to receive the best phone call of my life and find my home in Chicago with the Bears."
And while rookie free agents play the waiting game, NFL writers alike have been feeling the effects of the imposed lockout since nearly day one. Fans are simply tired of hearing about it. Many have adopted a "wake me when it's over" mindset. And who can blame them? Chicago Bears Huddle alone has seen site traffic drop by well over 30%. And it's no different anywhere else.
We talked to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun Times yesterday, who gave this perspective: "I can't, for one second, feel sorry for myself in any way, since I know so many people at the NFL and NFLPA offices, and all 32 clubs, who are enduring -- or at least facing -- furloughs and pay cuts the longer this drags on. I empathize with them, because I've witnessed that the last several years, given the struggles of newspapers. I know there's much at stake, but I hope that owners and players can come to an agreement, so good honest people who don't have millions in their bank and investment accounts can do their jobs and feed their families."
Let's hope that these two sides can reach an agreement before things go from bad to worse, as this whole situation has the potential to get very ugly, very quickly.