Lawyers representing both NFL owners and the players association have been meeting this week to put together the language to be used in a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Details of revenue sharing, rookie salaries and benefits for retired players, among others, are still being hashed out but it looks as if both sides are ready to do what it takes to start the season on time.
To that end, representatives from both sides have joined the lawyers today for the continued meetings in Manhattan, N.Y. Owners and players have state their commitment to getting a deal done soon, with both sides vowing to work through the weekend if necessary, something they have yet to do throughout this process.
Adding pressure to the situation is the fact U.S. District Judge Arthur Boylan, the mediator in the talks, is scheduled to go on vacation this Saturday. Many with firsthand knowledge of the situation feel a deal could be finalized by next week.
This would be welcome news to the millions of fans (and writers) who have been forced to endure the longest work stoppage in league history. If a new CBA is signed by July 15, next Friday, the Chicago Bears will be able to begin training camp on time, scheduled to begin a week later.
In that scenario, the team would have seven days to fill 27 open roster spots with free agents. Referencing that tiny window for free agency as "chaotic" would be an egregious understatement. It will be a fast and furious race among all 32 NFL teams to sign a potential group of 1,000 players. Hold on to your hats folks, it's going to be a wild ride.
Stay tuned with Bear Report, as we'll be bringing you all the free agency news as it happens, as well as daily reports from the sidelines in Bourbonnais.
WR Devin Hester
In free agency, Bears brass will look to add many new pieces to hopefully upgrade an offense that finished 30th in the league last year. Yet wide receiver Devin Hester feels the lockout has had a marked negative effect on the unit's ability to grow in its second year under coordinator Mike Martz.
"It's hard, especially with us coming off a new system, a new offense," Hester said on The Laurence Holmes Show Wednesday on 670 The Score. "You feel like you are really starting to understand the offense and then to have this downfall it kind of sets you back a little bit. But at the same time you need to find a way to do it on your own and brush up on the things you learned the past year."
What makes the situation even more difficult for the offensive players is the size and complexity of Martz's playbook.
"Everybody started to understand the offense (at the end of the season)," Hester said. "Any offense you go into — it's a new year — you're not going to get it on the first day regardless of how hard it is, regardless of how big the playbook is. Nobody is going to step in the door in the first week and say they learned a new offense.
"This lockout is kind of hurting us a little bit, but at the same time, the fact that we pretty much learned the whole playbook, now it's just refreshing our memory and that's what we are losing. We are losing the physical reps out there and I would say that is the biggest part of what's hurting us."
Because of the lockout, Martz will have his hands full trying to rapidly bring his players up to speed. Most likely, the playbook will be pared down earlier in the season, with new wrinkles added later on as the team makes its playoff push.
"It's tough even just making it to the playoffs in the NFL," said Hester. "That's not an easy thing. The biggest thing is you just make sure all the players are healthy when the playoffs come around. Making sure by that time everybody is on their toes and we're mentally sound and eliminate a lot of the mistakes we made during the regular season."
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