What We Learned this week in the NFL Preseason:
- NFL and Refs have some unsuccessful negotiations
- MJD ends holdout and reports to Jags
- Steelers cut roster to 53
Well Steeler Nation the regular season is finally upon us. September is here and if you’re like me you’re still recovering from the college football overdose from Saturday. Football is back and the air smells sweeter. There are so many things to look forward to for the NFL regular season, if you try to ignore the black cloud hovering over the whole thing which is the NFL ref’s labor dispute and the fact that the NFL will use replacement refs for real, regular season games for at least Week 1. This could be a disaster.
Nothing taking away from these replacement guys, these guys are doing the best they can with what training they were given. Most of them look scared out of their minds to make a call or even turn on their mikes. These guys are in no way prepared for the stage they are about to be placed on. Regular NFL refs go through months of training and are always paired up with veteran crews for a time before ever being put out in the position these refs are in. So why is the NFL ready to risk the player’s safety and the quality and integrity of the game on these guys? Now the refs and league are engaged in talks and some mudslinging to the press. That’s always comforting. At the center of this labor dispute the refs are holding on to wanting about $40K more a year per ref and their pensions while the NFL is moving, like most large companies, away from pensions and towards 401K-like retirement packages for employees. Yup, that’s about it. That’s what the roadblocks are. How the NFL can’t work out a deal to settle for an amount of money that isn’t even a dent in the $9 billion revenue they generate is beyond me. The NFL has been releasing statements that they’ve increased their offers to the refs unions but the refs are denying those claims and going as far as saying the NFL is “engaged in a misinformation campaign.”
It doesn’t seem like either side is anywhere near where they need to be to come to an agreement and what could be the thing that finally breaks the camel’s back and causes an agreement? Let’s hope it’s not a horrible injury suffered by an NFL star or a game decided on a blown call as a result of these refs’s inexperience. But we kinda all know it just might turn out that way don’t we? That’s the only thing that could swing the leverage in the refs favor and cause the mighty NFL to buckle. When it comes down to it, the little guys can’t win against the big guys. Even more evident, the players themselves have no protection against putting their lives in the hands of these replacement refs. Another way NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith failed the players in their CBA negotiations is the fact that they have no clause requiring the NFL to give them only experienced refs for their games. When the players were in their dispute they were well aware the refs’ contract was about to be up as well. Why wouldn’t they have expected the NFL to lock the refs out too? Goodell isn’t above locking out anybody, the Honey Roger don’t give a ****. I’m going to be crossing my fingers, toes, and everything else that will cross in the hopes no one gets severely hurt Week 1 and we’re not sitting here a week from today screaming about the atrocity of whatever game was decided by a bad call by a replacement ref.
Maurice Jones Drew finally ended his holdout and reported to the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday, most likely after he had drafted himself in his Fantasy league and realized he needed to get out on the field so he can get his points. MJD hasn’t gotten the new deal he wanted, while he had 2 years left on his current contract and the Jags were successful in not having to offer a penny more to get him to report. You can go back and forth all day long on whether or not it’s right for a player who is still in a current contract to hold out for more money. The point can be made that MJD outperformed his contract and is entitled to more money; the point can also be made that if you sign a contract you should be obligated to finish that contract before getting a new one. Then the other side of that coin is that the NFL owners always terminate players contracts before they are up if they happen to underperform. The fact of the matter is MJD did outperform his contract, but the Jags are a horrible team so it’s not like his NFL leading rushing yards helped them win the division, let alone at least 7 games last season. Still proves the point that every player to hold out eventually reports, players want to play and that’s where the NFL owners will always have the upper hand.
The Steelers have set their final 53 man regular season roster after losing another draft pick to a knee injury in their final preseason game against Carolina. Third round pick Sean Spence suffered a grotesquely looking knee injury in the game and had to be placed on the IR for the season. It was a brutal preseason for injuries for the Steelers, who also lost first round pick David DeCastro to a knee injury but was able to keep him on the roster after it was determined his regular season return could be possible. Notable names left off the final roster were Trai Essex, Jeremy Kapinos, and Jerrod Johnson.
The only thing that worries me about this roster is the amount of guys who are unable to play right away taking spots. Seems like when the Steelers arrive in Denver next weekend, if you include Ryan Clark because his sickle cell trait, there are maybe less than 50 available players on that 53 man roster. That seems rather dicey to me but I can’t see a way around it because you need to keep roster spots for players like Rashard Mendenhall, James Harrison, and David DeCastro, if in fact they can eventually play at some point this season. Casey Hampton saw his first action in the final preseason game after recovering from his ACL injury. Is it just me or does it seem like damned near every injury on this team is a knee injury? Seems like a lot. There’s still no way to know just how productive Mike Wallace can be right away or if it will take him a few games to get to full speed. After all these injuries, kinda makes sense the timing of his return to the team. If you don’t want to risk injury, might as well skip preseason if you can.
Football season is the greatest time of the year and I couldn’t be more excited to see the season kick off. Hopefully the Steelers want revenge in Denver just as bad as Steeler Nation does. Only thing left to do is chill the beer and prepare the snacks. Here we go Steelers!
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