While still dizzy from the euphoria that football is back (I am told Dez's friend tweeted that Dez was jumping for joy on his couch at the news), you can top it with a sense of long-term relief. The longest work stoppage in the history of the NFL is over...for a long while. It has been reported that late night and early morning calls on Sunday reached a point where both the owners and players were vying for an "opt out of the CBA option in five years" something that helped instigate this whole mess in the first place, but logic prevailed. The good news is there will be no opting out. NFL seasons are safe and secure for the duration of the 10-year deal, and it all officially begins tomorrow. As reported by USAToday.com:
According to NFL Network's Albert Breer, there will be no opt-out clause in the final document, meaning the league should enjoy labor peace through the 2021 NFL draft.
All rookies (drafted and undrafted) could begin signing contracts tomorrow, trades could begin and free agents could also begin negotiating new deals at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
Team facilities are set to open tomorrow, allowing players and coaches to meet and teams to get back to business. What we thought would be a 72-hour sign-your-own free agents period will instead be a virtual free-for-all, starting tomorrow. Rumors are that the Baltimore Ravens have already informed some veterans of their eminent release. Come 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, we will start hearing about rookies signing with teams. In the days to come we will nearly drown in breaking news updates. But let's take a moment to thank a few deserving individuals.
So who should we thank that everything worked out? Surely many people spent many hours in difficult negotiations. Judges warned the two parties, fans booed the Commish, media crucified both sides for their seemingly lack of common sense. Some say that the turning point was when the lawyers were exiled to their own meetings. Perhaps it was just the looming deadlines and understanding that everyone would lose if the CBA wasn't worked out...probably a bit of everything.
But it appears the PR war is in fact over as a story has emerged that only proves that after the wreckage of the lockout, respect between certain owners and players will persist. With a picture worth a thousand words, Colts center Jeff Saturday and Patriots owner Robert Kraft embrace in a clear display of mutual affection, relief, and gratitude.
As per USAToday:
(Jay) Glazer said Colts C Jeff Saturday was a "rock star" for his role in helping to broker a deal while citing Patriots ownerRobert Kraft on the other side as they assisted Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.
Myra Kraft passed away last week. There were worries that this would take away Bob Kraft, a vital leg of the negotiating table, but rumors are that Myra wanted Bob to help save the league instead of spending all his time by her bedside during some of her final days. As per PFT:
Saturday praised Mr. Kraft for continuing to attend the meetings during the final days of his wife's life, and Saturday praised Mrs. Kraft for allowing him to do it.
Saturday was unequivocal regarding Mr. Kraft's role in the process.
"Without him, this deal does not get done," Saturday said. "He is a man who helped us save football."
As for Robert Kraft (from PFT again)
Kraft was emotional when Saturday embraced him and thanked him publicly earlier Monday. Earlier, he was the one speaker to apologize to NFL fans.
"First of all I'd like, on behalf of both sides, to apologize to the fans that for the last five, six months we've been talking about the business of football and not what goes on on the field," Kraft said.
He also singled out Saturday and Dominique Foxworth as providing leadership throughout the process.
As I begin to celebrate the news of a 2011 NFL season, I will first raise my glass and toast the Krafts. Lovers and innovators of the league, RIP Myra Kraft and thank you Bob Kraft for (like some others - Mara, Jones) being shining examples of the great owners in the NFL. And then to one of the smartest guys on his team and oft savior of Payton's neck, cheers to Jeff Saturday (and Foxworth and other players like them) for not being a tweeting idiot and being able to steer the players' cumbersome ship to port. Now...three cheers to football!