A tip of the cap to the Sports Business Journal's Dan Kaplan, who reported Monday that the NFL is preparing for a possible eight-game season if the current labor impasse between the players and owners continues into September or even early October.
The news was not necessarily surprising and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello did nothing to contradict the report. When asked to comment, Aiello replied via email: "Only to repeat what the commissioner [Roger Goodell] said [last month]. We have contingency plans for our contingency plans. But the focus is on reaching an agreement with the players. We are a long way from making any such decisions about the season."
Fair enough, but with the calendar quickly closing in on the early July period when the impasse could impact at least the start of training camp, it's time to assess just what the summer and fall could be like without the NFL. As with all things, there are two edges to this sword (or yin and yang for those of you of a more philosophical bent). With that in mind, here's a look at the worst and best things about a labor struggle bleeding into or wiping out the season:
10. Con: The atmosphere at the Hall of Fame ceremonies on Aug. 6 is going to be spoiled. The Hall of Fame class of 2011 is one of the more interesting groups in recent memory with Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Richard Dent, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter and Ed Sabol. Sadly, those men are going to have to deal with assorted questions about what they think of the impasse, not to mention the fact that the annual Hall of Fame game (the preseason opener) will be canceled.
Pro: Perhaps a little somber news will cause Hall of Fame emcee and ESPN relic Chris Berman to come up with some original thoughts for the enshrinement ceremony so he doesn't just do his annual roll out of nicknames and clichés.
9. Con: A shortened training camp means the Pittsburgh Steelers likely wouldn't hold practices at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., the NFL's best summer venue (the Baltimore Ravens do a nice job at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., and Green Bay is wonderful, but neither is quite as nice as this environment). The setup at St. Vincent is almost like watching a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The field is situated at the bottom of a hillside, allowing fans to watch practice almost from stadium-type sight lines. In addition, dedicated Steelers fans line the walkway from the practice field to the meeting rooms, politely getting autographs and cheering the team. Great stuff.
Pro: Not having to attend the Dallas Cowboys' annual sell-a-thon at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Considering the throng of media that covers the Cowboys, the team does the best it can to accommodate the press. However, owner Jerry Jones has turned training camp into a traveling circus. Last year, that included a trip to California on top of the relocation to San Antonio. But even that's not as annoying as the stream of banners the Cowboys put up to raise ad revenue, and the assortment of cars and trucks that line the field each year for the "official" car company of the Cowboys. If Jones could sell space on his forehead, he might do it.
Belichick goes over a play during last year's camp.
8. Con: Not getting a chance to actually watch New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick work with players individually. At a time when head coaches are increasingly becoming CEOs and have less to do with day-to-day work, Belichick remains intensely focused on the details and it shows. Hate him if you want, but there is no denying that Belichick is still a purist when it comes to teaching the game.
Pro: Not having to listen to Belichick's constantly dry evaluations of practice. Yeah, Belichick is still good for a great one-liner during most media sessions and he's particularly good to talk to one-on-one, but it takes a lot of patience to get there.
7. Con: Not being able to see Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's(notes) incredibly detailed and earnest work during practice. Few players get as much out of every single moment of practice as Manning, who is football's answer to Michael Jordan – a superstar who works like an overachiever. Manning is constantly working to perfect his craft and instruct his teammates. It's truly special and fun to watch and listen.
Pro: Not having to watch the Colts go through day after day of practices without hitting along the lines. While just about every team in the NFL has gone to serious non-contact work in an effort to save wear and tear on linemen, the Colts have taken it to an extreme end. A tough day for the Colts’ offensive line is sometimes calisthenics. OK, it's not that bad. But it's little wonder that the Colts' running game has gotten so bad the past two years.
6. Con: Not getting a chance to just walk up to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers(notes) in San Diego and have an interesting 20-minute conversation during the midst of training camp without having to set it up six months in advance by submitting questions and three forms of identification.
5. Con: Not earning hotel and airline points fast enough to take my wife back to Europe next offseason so that I can say, "See honey, this is why it's OK that I spend 125 nights a year in hotels."
Pro: For the first time since 1991, I might actually get my birthday (July 30) off. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at a practice or on a plane flying somewhere as I turned a year older. Similarly, my editor might get to enjoy his August wedding without stressing about missing work. I emphasize the word "might."
The animated Payton directs one of the league's most explosive offenses.
Pro: Fewer chances for the San Diego special teams units to screw up and ruin another Chargers season, not to mention less opportunities to see what melodramas will impact the Oakland Raiders and Cowboys this season.
3. Con: People around the country will really get to see how awful the Pittsburgh Pirates organization has become because the Steelers won't be there to distract the local media and suddenly baseball will occupy more of our time.
2. Con: Missing all the trash talk that goes on during one of my three or four annual fantasy football drafts. Yeah, it's three or four. I used to play none before I got to Yahoo!, but once you take a job with the Y!, fantasy football is part of the job description.
1. Con: Missing that great excitement and build up as the clock ticks down to the September kickoff in the opening week of the season. Even without the artificial hoopla the NFL has created in recent years, the season opener in football has become akin to Christmas Day.
Pro: Seeing all the arrogant people on both sides of the lockout get a dose of reality when they find out the world really can go on without the NFL. As much as I love my job and this sport, a little humility would do everyone good.