NFL enters most critical week negotiating
July 15th. Go ahead and circle it on your calendar (do people still do that?) as a date of significance. More specifically, mark it down as the date where fans of the NFL can officially hit the panic button if a new collective bargaining agreement is not yet reached.
As the NFL lockout approaches 115 days, a heightened sense of urgency has developed as the traditional start of training camp approaches. NFL owners and players representatives will continue their seemingly endless discussions this week with the goal of hammering out a new CBA.
If the two parties can connect on a new CBA on or before July 15th, fans can expect a full training camp, full compliment of pre-season games, and a frenzied period of free agency. Once a plan is agreed upon, it will take some time to implement - and it will take another week or so to sign free agents, but it will at least put the train back on the track.
Each day the lockout persists after July 15th will severely compromise off-season activities, including pre-season games. Some teams, such as the NY Jets, have already said "sorry" to their usual training camp home over lingering concern the lockout will remain in tact. Other teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, have already announced their pre-season schedule.
But aside of the start of training camp (end of July), the elephant in the room is first pre-season game scheduled for August 7th in Canton, OH. Organizers for the Hall of Fame game (Bears and Rams) are all-systems-go in their preparation for the game. The game is typically a sell-out, but to this point, ticket sales are lagging.
If the game is not played, it will represent the start of what could be an $700-800 million dollar loss for the NFL. The pre-season can be mind-numbing for fans, but it's a cash cow for the league.
Candidly, I wouldn't expect a lot of new developments this week...it's not quite the 11th hour for those involved. But if there are no positive signs by July 15th, everyone involved stands to lose and, for fans, it's time to panic.