Labor Uncertainty Hits Home

The uncertainty of what lies ahead for the NFL is the biggest reason a pair of veteran Colts' starters — wide receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis — are hoping to restructure their current contracts.

Wayne, Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea did not take part in the Colts' three-day mandatory minicamp. The upcoming season marks the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association.

The specter of a labor lockout by owners after the 2010 season is making things tough for players and front office personnel, such as Indianapolis team president Bill Polian.

"We're not in a regular environment, that's the problem," Polian said recently. "I've spoken to both (Wayne and Mathis) their agents, and I certainly respect both men and they make a good case. But the problem is we don't have a system, and without a system you don't know where contracts might or might not fit.

"I don't speculate on what things might be. They are what they are, that's the only environment in which you can live."

Wayne is scheduled to make $5.47 million this season and $5.95 million next season. He has two years left on his contract. Mathis has two years remaining on his $30 million contract he signed in 2006. He's due a base salary of $2.31 million this season and $2.4 million in 2011.

"It's a jigsaw puzzle, and as one piece fits in then another falls in place and another falls in place," he said. "So the question is, what are the basic concepts and then where you go from there? What does one piece do to all the other pieces? That's the difficulty. You can't predict that, no one knows what it will be. No one knows until the parties sit down and hammer it out what it will be. And a small, little piece over here could change the whole complexion of things," Polian explained.

"So it's futile to plan beyond just baseline kind of planning because you don't know what the final product is going to look like."

Meanwhile, Jeff Saturday is in a unique position when it comes to the consequences of a possible lockout next spring.

Saturday, a two-time All-Pro center for the Indianapolis Colts, is the team's official player representative to the NFL Players Association. He is also a member of the NFLPA's executive committee, which will place him right in the middle of negotiations between the NFL and the league's owners.

At this point in the 2010 offseason, nobody really knows for sure what's going to happen when the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA expires in March. Saturday isn't sure that something will get accomplished before a lockout actually takes place. But he certainly hopes a work stoppage is avoided.

"My hope is that we'll all see this thing for what it is, that we've all got it really good (in the NFL). Our owners are making a lot of money. Players are making a lot of money. And we can all continue to make a lot of money in this game and put the best teams on the field for our fans," he said recently.

"Just continue the process. That's what we're doing now. And just continue to do it. And my hope is that everybody puts their egos down to the side at the end and we get it dialed it. As far as if I'm optimistic, not yet. But I'm hoping there's pressure as fans and as people begin to say, 'Let's move this thing forward. We're tired of hearing about it.' That it brings more people to the table ready to get it done."

It's entirely possible that nothing will get done, negotiations-wise, until deadline pressures force some sort of action.

"For a guy like me, it's not going to have a whole lot of effect on my career. I want this thing for our future players. I want it to be right. I want our game to be right. I think all the guys on the executive committee and involved in the NFLPA have a good attitude about it. Guys want to get it done. We understand there's going to be negotiations and there's going to be give-and-take on both sides. We've just got to get it done," Saturday said.

"I feel like everybody's just like, 'Why are we negotiating now? What's the hurry? We have until next March. Let's just go play this (2010) season and see who balks first. Who gets scared first.' I think all of us are going to wait until the end and then we'll have to get it done in a short amount of time. I think the best work gets done then."

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