The lockout imposed by the Owners of the National Football League is back in full effect. Last week, Judge Susan Nelson ruled that the Lockout violated the NFL’s Anti-Trust Laws. Three days later, the 8th Circuit of Appeals Court granted a stay to the injunction, allowing the Owners to resume their lockout proceedings. Now what?
Just when we thought it would business as usual, the 8th Circuit of Appeals Court through a monkey wrench into the plans. Judge Nelson, who has a reputation for siding with labor, ruled that the Owners were not negotiating in good faith and ruled that the lockout should be lifted or the Courts would start looking into the League’s Anti Trust Laws. The Owners did not want that nor do they want open their books. So they knew the fastest way to turn the tide back in their favor was to go to the 8th Circuit of Appeals Court, which has a reputation of being Big-Business friendly. The Owners were right. The 8th Circuit of Appeals Court ruled in their favor, granting a stay on the injunction after last week’s Rookie Draft.
It was an eerie feeling inside Radio City Music Hall last Thursday. Yes, the NFL Nation was in full force, as fans were dressed in full costume garb representing their respective teams. Nothing different there. However, without any pre draft trades or the possibility of making any in-draft trades, some of the wind was taking out of the sails. Then there were images of players being denied access to the training facilities throughout the League. Amidst the hysteria of the anticipation of the draft, there was uneasiness in the theater. The fans felt it, the media felt it, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell surely felt it, as well as he heard it during the first round of the Draft.
Every time Goodell stepped to the podium, he heard the wrath of the fans in attendance. The fans booed him at every opportunity. One would have thought that the fans’ anguish toward the Comish would have died down as the event went on, but that was not the case. Good thing that the news about the 8th Court’s decision came on Friday because those fans might have tried to tar and feather Commissioner Goodell.
As far as the Draft goes, there were a number of surprises. Most of them were due to the lack of free agency activity and trades, which are made before and during the draft. Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton went first overall to the Carolina Panthers. But many experts felt that he would not have been chosen that high if Carolina would have been able to trade for a more experienced signal caller. Linebacker Von Miller was taken next by the Denver Broncos and defensive end Marcell Darius was taken by the Buffalo Bills with the third pick.
Overall seven quarterbacks were taken in the first two rounds, a modern era record. The Tennessee Titans selected Jake Locker with eighth pick, and the Jacksonville Jaguars grabbed Blaine Gabbert with the 10th pick. Jaws dropped when the Minnesota Vikings shocked everybody as they nabbed Christen Ponders with the 12th selection. All of these signal callers were picked higher than most experts predicted or thought they should have been drafted. If the teams were able to make pre-draft trades, most of these guys would have been drafted at least 5-10 picks later. Some experts even went on to say that none of the four quarterbacks picked in the first round were first-round worthy.
The Atlanta Falcons traded five picks, three this year and two next year, so that they could move up and grab wide receiver Julio Jones with the sixth pick. The Cincinnati Bengals, however, might have selected the best wide receiver in this year’s class in AJ Green.
The quarterbacks drew most of the pre-draft attention, but this might be known as the Year of the Defensive Linemen. Eleven defensive linemen were taken in the first round alone, including Muhammad Wilkerson, taken with the 30th selection by our beloved New York Jets. Most did not know too much about him coming into the Draft, but Temple’s Wilkerson impressed everybody at the combine and many feel that he will fit well with Rex Ryan’s schemes. Nick Fairley was thought to be the No.1 selection when the gun sounded after the BCS title game. He fell to the Detroit Lions at 13. I don’t know why he dropped to 13 but I do know that the Lions will have one of the more imposing defensive fronts, teaming Fairley with Ndamukong Suh. When you consider that the Lions also corralled wide receiver Titus Young and running back Mikel Leshoure to compliment Mathew Stafford on offense, the Lions might have had the best weekend in Radio City Music Hall since Charlie Sheen.
Speaking of dropping in the draft, defensive back Prince Amukamara fell into the Giants’ lap at 19. Amukamara was considered to be the best defensive back behind Patrick Peterson, who went to the Arizona Cardinals with the fifth pick. Why did the good Prince fall so far? Who knows, but the Giants were glad that he was still on the board. He adds depth to the team’s beleaguered defensive back corps and should contribute right away.
Most of the quaterbacks, especially Newton, will enter the season with a chip on their shoulders. Their skill sets and abilities have been dissected and questioned to the nth degree. Hopefully, there will be a season and they will have a chance to prove the critics wrong.
Now the Owners and Players should get together and not wait on the Courts to decide their fate. If you think that Goodell felt the fans’ wrath on Thursday, let September 11th roll around and there is no Football. And this time the players will feel that wrath as well.