During his State of the Union press conference on Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell got an interesting question from cub reporter Chad Ochocinco(notes) of OCNN (The Ochocinco News Network, of course), who wanted to know something specific about the timeline of the current labor dispute between the owners and players. His take was interesting, because Ochocinco was speaking as a reporter (the OCNN thing is something he takes seriously; he had other players all over the place as part of his network) and as a player whose livelihood would certainly be affected by a work stoppage.
It went a little something like this:
"Chad Ochocinco of OCNN"
"I'm sorry - I couldn't get your name?"
"OCNN - sponsored by Motorola Zoom (laughter in the room)"
"You represent 32 owners, and I represent over 1800 players right now. We want to know one thing - seriously. I don't want the politically correct answer, as far as ‘It'll be done in a week.' Do you know how far we are from getting a deal realistically done? What is the real timetable for us getting it done? Because I see a lot of things being prepared on your end - you guys are somewhat preparing for a lockout."
"Well, Chad, as I said before, I think both sides are going to be prepared for every outcome. But I can tell you that the commitment on behalf of the ownership is to get an agreement. And we will get an agreement. And I think that's only going to happen when there's intensive negotiations between your union and the owners. And that has to take place now. This is the window of opportunity to get this done right. Because otherwise, uncertainty is going to seep into all of our operations, and make it harder for everybody to reach that agreement. So right now, I'd say, ‘Let's get to work - let's get an agreement that works for everybody."
Ochocinco was blasted in some corners of the media for ostensibly taking a serious issue and turning it into a joke, but I don't think that's what he was trying to do - in his own way, Chad was as serious as Chad is ever going to be. What I think it does show is that there is already anxiety among the players, and as together as NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith and his crew have their side of things, that anxiety is only going to grow as we get closer to, and past, the March 3 deadline date for the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and what seems like an inevitable lockout. Players will be asking questions, and their voices will be scattered across an ever-growing Twitterverse.
It was one question in a Goodell press conference that dealt typically in the Commissioner's seemingly infinite oversimplifications, but it was also an indicator of how interesting and emotional this labor dispute could get.
On Saturday, the NFL and NFLPA are scheduled to meet for negotations for the first time since November.