Anquan Boldin

DAVIDSONVILLE – Stuck in a holding pattern while NFL owners and decertified union leaders haggle over a proposed collective bargaining agreement still not ratified by the players, the Baltimore Ravens are patiently awaiting word for when they can return to work. With the lockout still in effect, team facilities remain closed to players and no transactions can be executed.

What's causing this lengthy delay of game? It's a complicated set of issues.

That includes unresolved lawsuits, an emotional push-back from an NFL Players Association angered at being told by league officials that it must recertify as a union as well as a lot of mistrust and enmity built up throughout this nasty labor dispute.

"The players felt like there was a handshake deal in place and felt like the owners tried to pull one over us at the last second," Ravens veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin said Friday at safety Ed Reed's charity golf tournament at Renditions. "The players are smart. We know what's going on. We know we will be playing football. We're just trying to get the right deal done. "Football aside, you have to take care of yourself. When your career is over, you can't go back to the owners then. You have to maximize what you get while your earning power is at its highest. The deal has to be right."

The divide between the owners and the players includes how the NFL drug policy would be conducted as the league wants to add testing for human growth hormone. And there are other issues, including how discipline would be meted out for off-field transgressions.

The Ravens have been regularly briefed on the labor issues by cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who's on the NFLPA executive committee. "He's looking out for us," cornerback Lardarius Webb said.

"Just talking to Fox, he said the deal that's come across is pretty good," safety Haruki Nakamura said. "The reaction to what the owners did, in the business world, it's what you call a power play. I feel like if we had the advantage we would do the same thing. That's how it happens on Wall Street and anywhere else in the world. We just want to make sure we're dotting every ‘I' and crossing every ‘T.'

"Fox seems pretty encouraged by the movement and the process and everything else. It's just making sure everything that's been negotiated is in the papers and that everybody understands fully what's going on."

One complaint from the players' side is the owners adding a supplemental revenue sharing to the labor deal that's intended to aid small-market franchises. Because of the deep mistrust, any changes to the deal previously agreed upon caused the players to be wary.

"That type of stuff, whether it's necessary for us to know it or not, is going to push back the deadline," Nakamura said. "I don't want to say it's unfortunate because we have a deadline by Tuesday to get it done and I can almost guarantee it will get done. It's just crazy."

Still, Nakamura said he expects a vote to take place by Sunday or Monday. And he expressed confidence in the NFLPA leadership.

"The best part about our group is we have guys who understand the business, understand how to negotiate, understand this is such a delicate matter," Nakamura said. "This is going to affect the next 10 years of the NFL. We just want to make sure that everything is clear.

"This is the first time in my whole football career that I didn't know if I was going to play football. For us, that's a culture shock. That's what we do. That's what we love. We treat it like we're little kids. It's a game we absolutely love, and we've made it into a lifestyle for us." Boldin emphasized that players aren't concerned about whether there will be a full season. And he expects the Ravens to be ready to go whenever the lockout is over.

"As players, we're not too worried about whether or not there will be a season," Boldin said. "We're all confident that there will be football. It's just a matter of time and it will be soon and we'll be back on the field.

"All the guys have done a great job of staying in shape and working out even though it hasn't been with the team. Guys have personal trainers and it's almost built a stronger bond with guys from other teams when you work out with people you normally wouldn't work out with."

Unlike several NFL teams breaking in new coaches, quarterbacks and schemes, the Ravens will remain relatively unchanged.

Boldin believes that's going to create a competitive edge for Baltimore, which has made it to three consecutive playoffs.

"For teams that are already established, they have a leg up on other teams," Boldin said. "I think the teams with new coaching staffs and trying to get a new quarterback acclimated, I see them really struggling."

The Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC divisional round.

"Without a doubt, I think last year was just the tip of the iceberg," Boldin said. "With another year and bringing back our core guys, the sky is the limit for us. I look for more than one or two playoff wins this year."

Until the labor deal is worked out, though, there will be no football.

"Hopefully, everything will work out," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "I want to play football. I want a fair deal, too. I know we won't play football until we have something kind of fair."

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