Talk of the impending labor doom now taking the NFL and its players by storm has dominated the headlines over the past week and rightfully so. With the NFLPA united in its stance and filing a class-action lawsuit against the owners, this entire situation is bound to get messier before it is eventually cleaned up.
Like many teams at the moment, the Chargers have more questions than answers when it comes to the way things will be handled in court and just when to expect a resolution. Bolts’ center Nick Hardwick is (or was) the team’s player representative in what was known as the NFLPA until Friday’s decertification. His down to earth approach and unflappable demeanor make him the ideal person to lay out this entire process in plain English.
Hardwick gave this explanation on Friday when asked about how the players should proceed saying: “I guess we’re kind of in limbo. We’ll have to see how it plays out over the next couple weeks before we get our marching orders.” He went on to acknowledge the difficulties of this situation for all parties involved including the vague timetables surrounding free agency. On this he said: “It’s hard because of the uncertainty. That uncertainty affects a lot of players. But other than that, we have to continue on like we would. In general, I’m optimistic. I’m going to stay that way. I’m going to control what I can control. I hope all my teammates have that same approach.”
Maintaining that day-to-day attitude that players need in order to be successful has to be the most difficult aspect of this ordeal. With all organized football activities and correspondence forbidden now that the union has dissolved and the collective bargaining portion of things has fallen apart, staying motivated has to be a challenging proposition.
Chargers’ owner Dean Spanos released a statement via the team’s website following the decertification announcement on Friday which can be read in full here---http://www.chargers.com/news/press-releases/article-1/Statement-from-Dean-Spanos-/9065b1a8-21ba-4abe-bda2-3a08e2fa53d5
Hardwick agreed whole-heartedly with the owner and his assessment of the players’ attitude toward this ordeal saying: “Dean is right. The guys just want to play football.” He also stressed the solidarity of the players and their desire to do what is right for them by adding that the players “ultimately have to work for the best deal possible, because we’re going to have to live with that deal. This is a monumental moment in football history. It’s going to determine a lot.”
The agreement between the two parties really ends right there as the owners have contended that from the start of this process it was clear that the main goal of the players was to reach litigation. Spanos reiterated the stance of his owner brethren when asked where things broke down between the two sides. He said: “They elected to stop the process, not us. The last thing any of us want is to shut our businesses down. It does no one any good. It was very clear to me in the last 17 days, and now in retrospect going back two years, their ultimate goal was to litigate. There was never an intention to get a deal done.”
Now in what has been billed as billionaires versus millionaires, the lawyers take center stage and will be in control of the proceedings from here on out. From an expanded regular season of 18 games to better retirement benefits and a rookie wage scale providing more money for veterans rather than unproven rookies, each of these issues will now be taken up in court by lawyers rather than the players actually seeking these provisions.
Spanos said it best when summarizing where things are headed from here by saying: “I believe we’ve got a disconnected union leadership. The lawyers are running the show. It’s unfortunate it’s part of the system. I’m not focused on the players specifically. They’re caught up in this. This is all being driven by the (lawyers). I have no animosity toward the players. I truly believe they just want to play football.”
Truer words were never spoken as even a man with an Economics degree from Northwestern like Bolts defensive end Luis Castillo admitted to having a difficult time dealing with all of this. He said: “The tough thing for players is, for the most part, we’re on the outside looking in. We’re putting our faith in a group of guys to lead us in a certain direction, and I think for the most part we think they’re doing a good job. I think guys feel, you come to the conclusion, you trust that you need to continue to fight for these things.”
Ultimately all that any players, owners, and fans want is to have their weekly fix of football on Sundays when the season rolls around this fall. Even with all of the complex rhetoric about revenues and just how they should be divvied out amongst the league’s two entities, the players are united on that front.
Castillo gave his opinion on what would be the final resolution to this matter by saying: “We don’t see it going to where we don’t have football. Regardless of the money, we don’t think anyone wants that.” Linebacker Shaun Phillips echoed those sentiments adding: “I believe there is going to be football. I just don’t know how soon.”
That is what players, owners, and fans all have in common as this situation plays itself out in the court system over the coming weeks and months. At least we can all agree on something, right?
Now let’s hear from you. Do you think the decision by the players to decertify as a union was a good or bad thing for these negotiations? Do Dean Spanos and the rest of the owners look bad with all of this or are they simply stating the facts? Which issues do you feel are the most important to getting a deal finalized; rookie wage scale, 18-game schedule, revenue sharing? Are Luis Castillo and Shaun Phillips being blindly optimistic in assuming that there will be football in 2011 or will things eventually get sorted out between the two sides? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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