MMQB Mailbag: NFL, players enter very important offseason stretch
A potential overnight owners' meeting signals progress being made
It's likely we're a couple weeks away from even a preliminary agreement
Mailbag questions on Cameron Wake, Terrelle Pryor, LeBron James and more
I went to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals last night in Boston. Aside from calling Mark Wahlberg "Donnie'' ("It's Mark,'' he corrected, patting a hand on my shoulder as if to say, "You idiot''), it was a fun night to be a sports fan at an electric event. But the crowd at the big hockey game wasn't totally focused on hockey. I'd estimate that 25 times during the evening I got asked, "When's the NFL going to settle this thing? We gonna have football on time?''
As I wrote Monday, I believe the answers are, respectively: by July 10, and yes. And there was more sense of progress this morning with the news (via Adam Schefter's Tweet) that club officials have been alerted that the regularly scheduled monthly NFL owners meeting Tuesday in Chicago could bleed into Wednesday. Or it could not, the league later clarified. These meetings are usually one-day affairs, with the labor negotiating team sometimes coming in the night before.
But this one could be a significant one. There's a drumbeat out there, in 32 front offices, about getting a deal done soon. "Let's ... put this stuff to bed for 8-plus years,'' Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted just before 11 this morning.
I'm not going to rain on the parade, but I don't believe the owners meeting will be held to vote on a new collective bargaining agreement. I don't think it's that close. I think the two sides are making progress and will continue to do so as small group sessions between players and owners convene again, beginning today in Maryland (via Albert Breer's Tweet). But the encyclopedic current CBA has so many twists and turns and T's to be crossed that I think it's more likely we're a couple of weeks away from even a preliminary agreement.
And I want to caution that it's no lock that an agreement is going to be reached. There's been a welcome thaw between the two sides, but a thaw doesn't mean every tenet of an agreement is on the verge of being resolved. For instance, the owners reportedly have offered to cut the length of the offseason programs for each team by five weeks, and to decrease the number of offseason training activity days; there's progress there, but it's not believed to be a solid deal yet.
The next three weeks, between now and the Fourth of July, are probably the most important offseason weeks since the 1993 wrangling to get a new CBA. The extra time in Chicago, I believe, could be used to detail exactly where the negotiators stand with the union, and how far the NFL is willing to go in the deal. Many teams don't really know exactly what's on the table because the league negotiators have been talking with players and informing their peers on a need-to-know basis.
In other words, a longer meeting is a good sign, but it's not necessarily a sign a deal is 98 percent done. Not at all.
Now for your e-mail:
MOST LIKELY, THEY WILL BE PART OF THE SETTLEMENT. "What will happen with all the court stuff if the two sides come to an agreement? Do those cases just vanish? It's all so confusing. Help.''
--Timothy, St. Paul, Minn.
Confusing to us in the media too. It's likely that the biggest of the cases, Brady v. NFL,will be part of a universal settlement, but we'll see.
WARREN MOON. "Great to see Cameron Wake so high on your top 100 list. Is he the best player the CFL has ever produced? I couldn't think of anyone else who comes close.''
--Juan Gomez, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Keep in mind there's been a highway from the Canadian league to the NFL for years, and it's been traveled by many notables -- like Warren Moon. Wake is off to a great start, but he'll have to be outstanding for six or eight more years to be mentioned with Moon in terms of great CFL alums to make it south of the border.
I JUST THINK THE MASSIVE POTSHOTS ARE A LITTLE OVER THE TOP. "Interesting comments about LeBron. It seems like everyone really and truly hates him. I also can't stand the guy and think the way he handled last offseason was horrific and a black eye for all athletes. But when is enough enough for fans? What do they want LeBron to do? Didn't he already admit The Decision was a mistake? I just fear the fans are getting so vicious that either they'll harm him or it'll get so bad, he might harm himself.''
Thanks for your voice of sanity.
WOULDN'T SURPRISE ME AT ALL. "Size? Speed? Bad boy attitude? Terrelle Pryor will be a Raider this fall, mark my word. And ol' Al will take him 2 rounds higher in the supplemental draft than conventional wisdom says.''
--Sal Younger, Santa Clarita, Calif.
Is that a good thing?
Many of you expressed sadness over Tom Martinez, the gravely ill mentor of Tom Brady and other quarterbacks. I wrote extensively about Martinez in Monday's column. And you also extended lots of heartfelt wishes about Clarence Clemons, the Springsteen sax man who suffered a serious stroke over the weekend. The biggest Springsteen fan I know, Brian Hyland, is a longtime TV producer. Worked with him at HBO, and many of you in the business know him also for his work at NFL Network. I asked him to give me a few thoughts on Clemons:
"My best memory of the Big Man came at the Super Bowl in Tampa when the E Street Band was the halftime show. As soon as the first half ended I sprinted onto that field like Carl Lewis. I've seen the E. Street band over 100 times but this was gonna be the closest we were ever gonna get and even if it was only for a short set, being that close to the group of musicians whose work has enriched my life so deeply made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning.
"Because his knees and hips were so bad (from football injuries in college and thousands of nights of three-hour shows wailing on the horn) Clarence was having trouble moving around at that time. So before the rest of the band came out onto the stage, for a minute or two Clarence Clemons was already set up where he always was -- the iconic spot to Bruce's right -- the spot where he has stood for 40 years. There, about 12 feet in front of us he stood, in a long, black coat, horn at his side, intense look on his face. And then it just came blurting out of me. I screamed at the top of my lungs, "THE BIG MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" He smiled and held his fist aloft -- the baddest man on the planet. Bruce and Clarence stood back-to-back as the drums and piano of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" began the halftime show. These two giants of my life, silhouetted against a white video screen. Two brothers whose collaboration has filled people all over the world with the type of joy only rock-n-roll can. Halfway through the song Bruce got to the lyric where he tells the world how "they made the change uptown and the Big Man joined the band / from the coastline to the city all the little pretties raised their hands!" Clarence played that horn and Bruce bowed to him.
"I felt pretty comfortable speaking for my fellow members of E Street Nation by saying that we all bow to Clarence Clemons today, we thank him for his joyous influence in our lives and pray for his full recovery. The world needs you, Big Man.''