I went to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals last night in Boston. Aside from calling Mark Wahlberg "Donnie'' ("It's Mark,'' he corrected, patting a hand on my shoulder as if to say, "You idiot''), it was a fun night to be a sports fan at an electric event. But the crowd at the big hockey game wasn't totally focused on hockey. I'd estimate that 25 times during the evening I got asked, "When's the NFL going to settle this thing? We gonna have football on time?''
As I wrote Monday, I believe the answers are, respectively: by July 10, and yes. And there was more sense of progress this morning with the news (via
But this one could be a significant one. There's a drumbeat out there, in 32 front offices, about getting a deal done soon. "Let's ... put this stuff to bed for 8-plus years,'' Colts owner Jim Irsay
I'm not going to rain on the parade, but I don't believe the owners meeting will be held to vote on a new collective bargaining agreement. I don't think it's that close. I think the two sides are making progress and will continue to do so as small group sessions between players and owners convene again, beginning today in Maryland (via
And I want to caution that it's no lock that an agreement is going to be reached. There's been a welcome thaw between the two sides, but a thaw doesn't mean every tenet of an agreement is on the verge of being resolved. For instance, the owners reportedly have offered to cut the length of the offseason programs for each team by five weeks, and to decrease the number of offseason training activity days; there's progress there, but it's not believed to be a solid deal yet.
The next three weeks, between now and the Fourth of July, are probably the most important offseason weeks since the 1993 wrangling to get a new CBA. The extra time in Chicago, I believe, could be used to detail exactly where the negotiators stand with the union, and how far the NFL is willing to go in the deal. Many teams don't really know exactly what's on the table because the league negotiators have been talking with players and informing their peers on a need-to-know basis.
In other words, a longer meeting is a good sign, but it's not necessarily a sign a deal is 98 percent done. Not at all.
Now for your e-mail:
• MOST LIKELY, THEY WILL BE PART OF THE SETTLEMENT.
Confusing to us in the media too. It's likely that the biggest of the cases,
• WARREN MOON.
Keep in mind there's been a highway from the Canadian league to the NFL for years, and it's been traveled by many notables -- like Warren Moon. Wake is off to a great start, but he'll have to be outstanding for six or eight more years to be mentioned with Moon in terms of great CFL alums to make it south of the border.
• I JUST THINK THE MASSIVE POTSHOTS ARE A LITTLE OVER THE TOP.
Thanks for your voice of sanity.
• WOULDN'T SURPRISE ME AT ALL.
Is that a good thing?
Many of you expressed sadness over Tom Martinez, the gravely ill mentor of Tom Brady and other quarterbacks. I wrote extensively about Martinez in
"My best memory of the Big Man came at the Super Bowl in Tampa when the E Street Band was the halftime show. As soon as the first half ended I sprinted onto that field like Carl Lewis. I've seen the E. Street band over 100 times but this was gonna be the closest we were ever gonna get and even if it was only for a short set, being that close to the group of musicians whose work has enriched my life so deeply made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning.
"Because his knees and hips were so bad (from football injuries in college and thousands of nights of three-hour shows wailing on the horn) Clarence was having trouble moving around at that time. So before the rest of the band came out onto the stage, for a minute or two Clarence Clemons was already set up where he always was -- the iconic spot to Bruce's right -- the spot where he has stood for 40 years. There, about 12 feet in front of us he stood, in a long, black coat, horn at his side, intense look on his face. And then it just came blurting out of me. I screamed at the top of my lungs, "THE BIG MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" He smiled and held his fist aloft -- the baddest man on the planet. Bruce and Clarence stood back-to-back as the drums and piano of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" began the halftime show. These two giants of my life, silhouetted against a white video screen. Two brothers whose collaboration has filled people all over the world with the type of joy only rock-n-roll can. Halfway through the song Bruce got to the lyric where he tells the world how "they made the change uptown and the Big Man joined the band / from the coastline to the city all the little pretties raised their hands!" Clarence played that horn and Bruce bowed to him.
"I felt pretty comfortable speaking for my fellow members of E Street Nation by saying that we all bow to Clarence Clemons today, we thank him for his joyous influence in our lives and pray for his full recovery. The world needs you, Big Man.''