The NFLPA has trained what seems like everyone to understand that the NFL will be locking out the players. If you look at the NFLPA website, it even says "Lockout Watch" at the very top.
But can you blame them? The NFL has taken steps to give the perception that they are in lockout preparations -- doing the TV deals to guarantee payment in 2011 even in the absence of football, writing coaches contracts with protection from a work stoppage, hiring the NHL "lockout lawyer", the American Needle case and hiring Troy Vincent, former NFLPA president.
The players on Wednesday took legal action against the owners regarding the TV contracts they've negotiated arguing that the creation of the "lockout fund' comes at the expense of the players -- a violation of the 1993 agreement between the two sides -- and that the NFL "left money on the table" in order to secure guaranteed payments in 2011 thus not maximizing revenue -- another violation of that 1993 agreement.
With the players taking legal action against the owners, how will this affect the CBA negotiations? On the surface it seems that this would hurt the negotiations.
DeMaurice Smith said during a conference call Wednesday it would not affect the discussions between the two sides but declined to elaborate.
Upon further review, it may actually help the chances of avoiding a work-stoppage.
Look at this way: Arguably the league's biggest advantage over the players is the presence of the $4 billion "lockout fund' that they'll receive regardless of whether there's football. This allows them to make payments on their stadiums and pay whoever it is they need to pay. In fact, with no costs, they could actually see a "windfall of profits" as Smith calls it.
If the players win this case -- and that money is put into escrow and unable to be touched by the league -- they lose arguably their biggest bargaining chip. This would potentially push the owners into a higher level of urgency to get a CBA deal done and eliminate much of their leverage.
So in the end, what might be best for the game would be a win for the players in this case.