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The Arizona Cardinals' depth chart has been heavily discussed this offseason, mainly because nothing could be done to improve the horrendous quarterback situation while the lockout was in place. Lets look at the skill positions and see what we're working with going into the 2011 season.
Hightower and Wells had a timeshare of sorts in 2010, and the two backs combined for 1133 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Stephens-Howling was a pleasant surprise in the kick return game, running back two kickoffs for touchdowns and compiling an impressive 1548 return yards during an injury-shortened campaign.
The Cardinals have lost Jason Wright, who decided to retire and pursue other business opportunities. It will be interesting to see which of Hightower and Wells emerge as the lead back in '11, but both are wary of Williams, who was selected out of Virginia Tech in the second round of this year's NFL Draft. The move was surprising for many who didn't consider running back to be a huge position of need that early on.
Should Williams show more upside early in the season, though, all that talk will quickly subside.
Fitzgerald and Breaston are known commodities (read: excellent), and Williams and Roberts both improved over the course of the 2010 season. Sampson is a rookie fresh out of San Diego State and will compete for a roster spot in 2011. He was a steal in the seventh round and if he can stay healthy, could be a dark horse contributor for the Cards.
Housler is a rookie out of Florida Atlantic, and the Cardinals picked him up in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Housler offers Arizona something that Spach and Patrick cannot do -- he can catch the ball and spread the field. He's 6'5" and is going to help our new quarterback in multiple ways.
Skelton and Bartel are currently the only real possibilities on the Cardinals roster to be the starting quarterback in 2011, and that scares every single Arizona fan in the known universe.
The Cardinals must acquire a veteran quarterback, whether it is Marc Bulger, Kyle Orton, Kolb, or any number of other options. Skelton just isn't ready, especially when the other skill positions are so deep and ready to win.
After the whirlwind of news that hit on Monday about the NFL, things have finally begun to settle down. The league is starting its offseason. Undrafted rookies are agreeing to terms with teams. Trades are going to happen starting Tuesday. And the Arizona Cardinals will begin their training camp on Wednesday.
They will not head up immediately to Flagstaff, though.
According to AZcardinals.com's Darren Urban, the Cardinals will have physicals completed here in the Valley and it will be Friday when the team travels up north to Flagstaff.
On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the team will hold their first workouts. All practices in Flagstaff will be open to the public.
Note that newly signed players and any players acquired via trade and have a contract restructured, excluding rookies, will not be able to participate in physical practices until August 4, when the CBA officially takes effect.
Now is the time to get those hotel reservations set. Flagstaff will get a little busy starting this weekend.
Finally, after months of labor-related disputes, both casual spectators and hardcore football fans alike can look forward to football action in the near future. The Arizona Cardinals are expected to open up training camp on Wednesday. This start date, however, has not been confirmed directly by the team yet.
Preseason football will begin in the second week of August. Here's a full look at the Cardinals' preseason schedule:
Thursday, August 11th at Oakland Raiders (7:00 p.m.)
Friday, August 19th at Green Bay Packers (5:00 p.m.)
Saturday, August 27th vs. San Diego Chargers (7:00 p.m.)
Thursday, September 1st vs. Denver Broncos (6:00 p.m.)
The Cardinals have 17 days until their first preseason game against the Raiders. Beginning tomorrow, the Cardinals will have 16 days to sign free agents and rookies. All teams will have to fill out 90 roster spots, which is 10 more than in previous years.
The Cardinals will begin their regular season at home exactly a month from their first preseason game, on September 11th. The game, which will take place on the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001, is scheduled to begin at 1:15 against the Carolina Panthers.
The American sporting public loves the NFL. The game is perfectly paced for TV with plenty of time to get up and grab another beer and just enough time to run to the bathroom and make room for more beer. Football combines violence with just enough strategy to let us think that we are smart. Baseball was the "national pastime" in a time long since past. We are living in the NFL's world and there's no pretending otherwise.
Now we can get back to what we love with the official (sort of) end of the The Great Lockout Of 2011.
The NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith addressed the media on Monday to explain the working man's side of the deal. He was followed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell representing the Great American Capitalist.
"We wanted to let everyone know who loves this game that the executive committee and board of player reps of the National Football League unanimously recommended the approval of the deal.
"Obviously, we have a collective bargaining ratification process that has yet to start. We have a recertification effort that is going to be one of the most intense and significant unionization efforts, certainly one of the most public unionization efforts in our history. Our men believe they should make this decision as players. They'll make the decision of recertification as players. They'll make the decision of ratifying the CBA that addresses health and asfety issues, and benefits, that you know have been important to us.
"To our fans, I know you love this game as much as I do. I know it's been a very long process since the day we stood here on that day in March. But our guys stuck together when no one lese thought we would and football is back because of it. I'm proud of the men that you see behind me, I'm proud of the former players that have stood with us, and most of all, I dig our fans who love our game." -- DeMaurice Smith
"It's been a long time coming and uh -- football's back." - Roger Goodell
Football is back...or at least it will be once a few more hoops are jumped through.
Multiple reports say that our long national nightmare -- aka the NFL Lockout of 2011 -- is just hours away from ending. The players and owners were said to have burned the late night oil (most likely florescent oil and not whale oil) and hammered out their final remaining contract points.
The NFLPA has scheduled a conference call for 11:00 am ET with their Executive Committee and the 32 player reps to approve the deal. Shortly after, sometime Monday, would be press conference to officially end the dispute that has caused America to miss all of zero regular season football game, no NFL preseason games and likely just a couple of days of training camp. How did we survive?
From there things will start happening fast. ESPN reports that the new league year would officially start August 2 at 4:00 p.m. ET. But even before that the one thing fans were denied, free agency and trades, would resume.
• Teams can sign their own free agents and begin talking with other unrestricted free agents Monday afternoon.
• Teams can begin signing unrestricted free agents Tuesday at noon ET but those contracts would not take effect until Aug. 2.
• Teams can begin talking trades Monday afternoon. Any trades would become official on Saturday, July 30.
Training camps would start on a staggered schedule with 10 teams reporting on Wednesday, 10 on Thursday and 10 more on Friday. The Cardinals (allegedly) are in the Wednesday group on that schedule.
You have to wonder though if they will actually "start camp" that fast. There's a lot of logistics to get set up before the big boys actually strap on the pads and start hitting each other. Arizona Republic's Kent Somers has more on the timing.
azcentral.com blogs - Kent Somers - A guess at when camp opens in Flagstaff
The team is packed for Flagstaff, however, and coach Ken Whisenhunt plans to go, even though it likely will mean starting practice without a full 90-man roster.
The details are fluid but much should be revealed to the patient fan today. Stay tuned and enjoy some of these links we've prepared for your morning consumption.
According to the mainstream media, the NFL lockout should be ending tomorrow. Despite reports of player apprehension and greasy tactics by the NFL owners, the NFLPA appears to have determined the offer to be fair and reasonable.
The players will vote on Monday, and all signs point to the agreement being acceptable. According to SB Nation's Joel Thorman, this is how the next steps should play out:
So here's how the process will go down. First, the players executive committee will vote (reportedly on Monday) to recommend the proposal (with all the changes made via talks with the owners over the weekend). This is an 11-man committee and they're expected to approve it. Second, the player reps -- one from each team -- will need to vote, likely via phone, to recommend the deal. Again, this is expected to happen. The 10 named plaintiffs are also expected to sign off on any deal.
For wall-to-wall coverage of the lockout, head on over to SB Nation's main page.
Most fans had been expecting that the NFL lockout would have been over, but the events of Thursday have people a bit worried. The owners voted 31-0 to ratify the proposed agreement and then passed the agreement on to the players to ratify, but the players, after a conference call, decided not to vote for it, causing a delay in the process.
Some of the keys of the agreement included:
After the owners voted (the Raiders abstained), commissioner Roger Goodell explained that the league would open team facilities on Saturday, begin the signing of rookie free agents on Sunday and begin the league year (trades, free agency, training camps) on Wednesday. There were two conditions.
One was that the players had to ratify the agreement and then they had to recertify as a union.
The players were not happy. They believe that the owners made changes to the proposal that the players never agreed to. They also believe that the owners made a move with the vote to put pressure on the players and turn fans against them, as if they do not vote, it will be seen as the players' fault that the lockout continues.
Well played, owners. They have done just that, whether intended or not.
The players then decided not to vote on the proposal as expected Thursday evening and there is some question as to whether a vote will even happen on Friday.
There is even talk of legal matters again -- this time with an accusation that the owners are coercing the players to form a union, something that is illegal.
However, most reporters believe that a vote will happen on Friday that it will be approved. The players just seek a little patience because ten years is a long time to agree to something.
At this point, it just needs to get done. It would be rather disingenuous to add things not agreed to in the proposal if it happened and it is equally disingenuous for the cold feet the players are having if there was nothing added.
In any case, football should be around the corner.
With the current NFL lockout almost reaching four months and labor negotiations taking place today at a crucial point in which preseason games could be in danger if an agreement is not reached soon, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling on the legality of the lockout. They have ruled that Judge Susan Nelson's original ruling to disallow the lockout was against current law, making the lockout legal. However, the court added a caveat explaining that the league could not lock out rookies or free agent players because without contracts they are technically not employees that can be locked out.
Signings will not start immediately, but will likely happen after another hearing with Judge Nelson, who by all indications will rule that they can begin.
There is a little bit a of fear that this ruling could derail current negotiations, but NFL Network reporter Albert Breer just tweeted that the people he has spoken with believe it will amp up talks.
At this point the main thing that is keeping talks going is the potential of losing hundreds of millions of dollars if there are lost preseason games. Lost revenues could really sour negotiations and cause a much longer lockout.
I don't think there is a single person left that doesn't want a deal done now. With time running out, that is all that there is left to do.
Negotiations went on for well over 12 hours on Thursday and begin early Friday, perhaps sending a signal that a possible agreement in principle could come before the holiday weekend. If not, at least it shows urgency to get an agreement in place with time to have training camps on time.
The NFL owners met in Chicago on Tuesday to discuss labor issues. It was also the opportunity to voice concerns and get everyone on the same page as to where negotiations are headed. As a result, some information came out that give us a sneak peak into what the new CBA will include when the players and owners come to an agreement and end the current lockout that is closing in on four months in length.
Here are the key components:
It seems that the owners are united on this front and, while there was no vote for the proposal to move forward, it appears that things are moving the way they should. There is tempered optimism as the commissioner Roger Goodell has said "there is still much to do" and league counsel Jeff Pash believes that it will take "a significant amount of time with the players" to get a deal done, but they are willing to do what it takes.
The NFL lockout has been frustrating and debilitating for football fans everywhere. It is too early to know whether or not there is permanent damage done. As we have begun June, it has looked less and less like there would ever be an agreement between the players and owners because of the rhetoric in the media and the litigation. However, there is reason to believe that there is light at the end of the dark work stoppage tunnel, albeit an ever so dim light for now.
Friday is set for the court hearing that deals with the lockout and the validity of it. There was scheduled mediation to take place next week. However, Wednesday and Thursday morning there have been face-to-face settlement meetings between the players and the owners. The only lawyer present was player rep and attorney DeMaurice Smith.
These "secret" meetings occurred without most owners knowing until today and were overseen by Judge Boylan, who was overseeing the mediation mandated by Judge Susan Nelson.
According to NFL Network reporter Albert Breer, these settlement meetings mean something. It means that the NFL is making concessions to have court supervision of the negotiations and that they are "acknowledging the validity of the antitrust case." He tweets that "in 1993, the last time issues this serious existed, the NFL and players reached a 'settlement'. Terms of the next CBA were in it."
He is careful to say that it is short of CBA negotiations, but it is not far off.
The result is that the two parties have apparently made enough progress to cancel mediation sessions to continue in settlement talks, which should, in turn, lead to a new CBA, the end of the lockout and the start of the offseason and all that comes with that (free agency, trades, contract extensions, training camp, etc).
We have been hopeful before, but it looks, at least for now that a corner has either been turned or that it is about to be turned. We can only hope that this hope is not in vain.
It's been a wacky week in the legal world of the NFL Lockout. First Judge Susan Nelson ruled that the lockout was over and order the NFL to reopen for business. Then after some confusing fits and starts, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay and basically put Nelson's ruling on temporary hold.
SB Nation explains more:
NFL Lockout Is Back; League Granted Temporary Stay - SBNation.com
On Friday morning, the league started allowing players into the facilities and began allowing contact between players and coaches but didn't announce any plans regarding trades, re-signings or free agency. And by Friday evening, have this news. So the lockout is back -- for now -- and we will focus on the NFL draft this weekend. On Monday, though, we'll be waiting to hear
It turns out to be an NFL fan these days you have to not only know what a "5 technique" is but you need to be a lawyer and an accountant as well. When big business meets sports, the money will win every time. Fun stuff.
Having lost their request for a stay of the injunction that Judge Nelson enforced to lift the lockout, the NFL has issued a statement, setting forth the preliminary guidelines for team and player interactions. It does not yet address player trades or player contracts. The league said that they would release those guidelines as early as tomorrow.
What it means for now regarding player movement is that during the draft picks can be dealt, but players cannot. No free agent signings will happen during the draft.
As for the team-player communications, starting tomorrow, the teams are to allow players in the facilities. Playbooks can be distributed, as well as game film.
Players can receive medical treatment and do rehab, "as scheduled by the club."
OTAs and minicamps can also occur. Unsupervised use of the weight room is permitted, provided the player has a personal medical insurance policy.
The league was very clear to state, though, that they had filed an appeal with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, so it is possible that this all goes away next week if the court grants a stay of the injunction then.
Until then, we might have ourselves some fun with player movement very soon.
Collective bargaining is cool again, kids!
Monday afternoon Judge Susan Nelson wrote a carefully crafted ruling that essentially ended the lockout imposed by the NFL owners when the current collective bargaining agreement expired and a new deal couldn't be negotiated. Judge Nelson's ruling was immediately appealed by the NFL to the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals. The Appeals Court could "stay" Judge Nelson's ruling and the lockout would resume but if that doesn't happen the already chaotic situation would get even crazier.
But that crazy period would only last so long as neither side is interested in operating without a CBA as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in his response to the ruling. Goodell went helmet first into the players for their legal tactics in his Wall Street Journal op-ed. The commissioner said the dispute can only be resolved through continued negotiations and a new CBA and that the legal path taken by the players "may endanger one of the most popular and successful sports leagues in history."
Obviously, Goodell is going to spin the court ruling this way. The owners win if the lockout drags out and the players lose cohesion and willingness to skip paychecks. In his hyperbolic op-ed Goodell is appealing to fans with the worst case scenario of no CBA. That's no going to happen.
This ruling, if upheld, will simply drive the owners back to the bargaining table sooner than they want to negotiate a new deal that's more fair to the players. The players after all, are the one's putting their bodies at risk every Sunday to satisfy our craving for football.
Judge Susan Nelson reportedly ruled in favor of the NFL Players and ordered the NFL to lift the lockout according to an ESPN report. The owners are expected to file an appeal. This turn of events has been widely speculated for the past few weeks since Judge Nelson held her first hearing in the case.
A group of NFL players filed suit against the NFL claiming that the owners were acting in violation of anti-trust laws. The decertification of the NFLPA as the official union authorized to bargain with the league's owners opened up the door to the law suit.
Before NFL fans start celebrating Monday's ruling, there's a very good chance that an appeals court will order things held in place until further hearings are held. That would mean the lockout would continue. There is, however, a chance that won't happen in which case we would likely see chaos. Without a collective bargaining agreement in place, individual teams would be free to negotiate with individual players with no limitations. There would be no salary cap and all the rules covering the NFL's interactions with the players would no longer exists.
Since neither side really wants that kind of confusion, this is most likely just another step in the long process that will eventually, some day, lead to a negotiated settlement between the NFL's players and owners.
On Wednesday we wrote about signs of cracking within the ranks of the NFL players. Big name guys who've made millions and millions of dollars in their careers are much more able and motivated to play hardball with the owners. Younger and less paid players however, are much more interested in seeing the lockout end even if that means caving in to more of the owner's demands.
One solution for that cleavage between the wealthier and less wealthy players is charity and it's absolutely no surprise that Larry Fitzgerald is leading the charge. Fitz is one of the most generous people in all sports and so extending his helping hand to teammates is a no-brainer.
According to this transcript provided by SB Nation's Sports Radio Interviews, Fitzgerald will there for his guys.
Question: Are you concerned with younger player buckling at some point because they haven’t made the money that some of the veteran players like yourself have made?
Fitzgerald: “Man we hope not. The NFL Players Association did a fantastic job last year…if they [younger players] were in the league we would invest $50,000 and we be able to get that back depending on how long the lockout was.
I think that was a good plan employed by the NFLPA, but for my young guys [like] Stephen Williams, Max Hall, Isaiah Williams, all the guys that are on my team they know if they need anything all they gotta to do is pick up the phone and I’m going to be there for them and support them any way I can.”
Obviously, it's in the best interest of the top-tier players to make sure their peers don't buckle too soon. Even so, we're not sure all of the league's highest paid guys will be as generous as Fitz.
There's still time to get tickets for Larry Fitzgerald's Celebrity Softball Game this weekend at Salt River Fields. Proceeds go to that Assist 4 Africa Foundation.
It is totally reasonable to expect the NFL players to start showing signs of division within their ranks but for it to come this soon into the lockout is a bit surprising. While the general sense is that the owners are super duper, mega billionaires and the player are "mere" millionaires, there's actually are more divisions of class in this NFL lockout fight. Economic class, as history has taught us, is the biggest fault line in any society. This is true too in the society of NFL players.
According to this report from Sports Business Daily, a group of 70 players is poised to sue to get the right to sit at the same table as the big boys. These players are described as being from the mid-tier of the player ranks. That means they only make "lots" of money. The players currently involved in the law suit that's led to mediation in Minnesota are the high-priced guys in the league -- your Mannings and Bradys -- who are rolling in the dough.
The argument goes that the lower paid players have more of an incentive to get a deal done and get the paychecks flowing again while the super rich players can survive a lockout much longer. Makes sense. At the same time it's hard to see how having three parties at the negotiating table will speed things up.
It will be interesting to follow this group of 70 players to see how much influence they end up having on the process.
After NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a message to the players requesting a return to the negotiating table, the players have responded with a letter of their own, and one player, punter Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings, had a little time on his hands and decided to describe the negotiations process and lockout through a whiteboard message.
The letter the players responded with echoes many of the sentiments of the interview that DeMaurice Smith gave SB Nation on Friday.
Essentially, the points were that regardless of whatever good items the NFL was offering, it was not a point of negotiating. The players in that deal were unable to pick and choose -- they were required to take the financial part as well. As the letter says, the deal with the "giveback" that the players describe as "the worst economic deal for players in major league pro sports."
The sticking point for the players is indeed money. What the NFL was offering was less money than before, but a much higher salary floor. They claim that in the first four years of the ten-year deal that was offered the players would be losing over $2 billion dollars to the owners, who admittedly are not losing money.
In a second, more humorous event, Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe got a whiteboard and illustrated his case against the owners:
This does't sound like a disagreement that is going to end anytime soon, does it?
We have reached the one-week mark of the NFL lockout. The past week has been full of talking. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has issued a letter to the players pleading a return to the negotiation table through mediation. The NFLPA* (no longer a union, now a trade association that has no power in collective bargaining) has players and onetime union rep DeMaurice Smith talking about league lies.
Smith has said all along that the league was planning on locking out the players, going on two years, citing a document that was intended to be kept in the dark.
One of the sticking points for the NFLPA has been showing financial documentation giving proof that the owners needed more of the revenue pie. The league claims they provided five years of audited financials showing both league and team profits, something they do not even give to the teams.
The players dispute this fact and feel that the owners were trying to force the players into agreeing to as Smith called "the worst deal ever in professional sports" and avoid decertification by making the offer near the deadline the players had to file their action in court.
Now we must sit and wait for April 6 and the injunction hearing to know whether the lockout will continue or not. Negotiations are not likely to start again without a ruling. The league has said many times it is ready and willing to go again. We will have to wait and see.
In the meantime, teams cut pay and no personnel moves can happen. All that will occur Is the draft next month. For everyone's sake, hopefully this is resolved sooner rather than later.
It's official: The NFL has locked out its players after the union moved to decertify on Friday afternoon. This has huge ramifications for the league, and the 2011 season is officially in jeopardy.
The lockout basically means that teams and players cannot communicate. No personnel moves can be made by teams, either. The NFL Draft will continue as planned, but the teams can only trade draft picks and may not trade players for picks -- just picks for picks.
From a fan perspective, the greed exhibited by both sides makes it difficult to understand the rationale. Football is a violent sport, and the players are generally well-compensated for their battle scars. While it's true that young, highly drafted players earn far too much before proving anything in the league, it's difficult to argue with the current pay structure outside of that flaw.
Should the NFL lockout continue into the season, America as a nation will come to a crossroads. What do people do on Sunday afternoons in the fall? Watching football was a great excuse to avoid doing lawn work or to bring people together that otherwise have nothing in common. The NFL is our great icebreaker; the college game doesn't offer that level of ubiquity.
Regardless, today is a sad day for our nation. Buy your season tickets now for the local college, as it just might be the only game in town come September.
In an event that has been predicted by many as being inevitable, the NFLPA has filed papers for decertification as a union. The left negotiations after the NFL was reportedly unwilling to open up 10 years of audited financial statements. This move by the players means that there will technically be no union and thus the NFL could not legally lock them out of work. If the NFL does, then players my file suit in federal court that the league is violating anti-trust laws.
The NFLPA released this statement:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The NFL Players Association announced today it has informed the NFL, NFL clubs and other necessary parties that it has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the National Football League.
The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players.
The NFL, leery of having to go to court to have the future decided, still wishes to continue with negtiations.
The league recently responded to the NFLPA's move with this statement:
At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham ‘decertification’ and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement.
The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached. The NFL calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.
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