Owners meetings have some meat to them

Owners meetings are infamous for golf outings and relatively little important things getting done. Not this year. With labor talk dominating the session, teams have many important topics to discuss.

The NFL and its players aren't talking, but the owners are getting together in New Orleans for their annual owners meetings. However, unlike the typical owners meetings, there doesn't sound like there is going to be a lot of golfing and smoking Cuban cigars. They're facing bigger questions than mere rules changes this year.

It would seem the owners meetings will be more of a strategy session as to how to proceed with the labor issues. It's unclear if the players association, headed by Tom Brady et al, can win an injunction in court that would allow football to resume as usual under the recently expired agreement or if it will merely sanction the lockout in the court system, but the owners are looking at a wide range of options.

How will teams go about collecting ticket revenue from fans without the guarantee of games? The Vikings have laid out a refund plan if games are missed, but the Giants are the only one of the NFL's 32 teams currently not taking season ticket payments – waiting until after a resolution is reached before they start cashing checks and processing credit card payments.

What happens to teams that have contractual agreements with the cities in which they hold their training camps? The flood of fans to places like Mankato, where the Vikings hold their annual training camp, is counted on by the local business community as a much-needed and necessary influx of money to the community that would create a problem if it doesn't arrive as usual. Many other teams have lucrative training camp contracts with the sites that hold their annual cattle call of talent that could find them in breech of contract if they don't produce a product on their end.

There are also issues with merchandise and vendor operations at the individual stadiums. Teams have enormous vendor contracts to provide everything from jerseys to hot dogs to beer. These contracts are usually finalized long before the season begins and preparations are made. How will those relationships progress if there is a partial season … or no season at all.

The owners have been involved in the negotiation process – some to far greater degrees than others – but this will be the first chance for them to all be in the same place at the same time. There has been discussion that the owners aren't in 100 percent solidarity in their own house, which could make a united front more difficult if concessions are going to need to be made.

You get the feeling that, with the business of football coming closer to grinding to a halt, the time for kicking back and being big shots is going to be curtailed almost completely. This time, when they tell the wives they're off to meetings, they really will be off to meetings.


  • ESPN caught up with Leslie Frazier as he arrived at the owners meetings in New Orleans. He was asked about what qualities he is looking at when evaluating the crop of young quarterbacks.

    "For me, the communication and getting to know them – sometimes in their environment, sometimes if it's at the Combine or if we're going to bring them to our facility – that to me is what is as important as the mechanics and so on. I think we've got good people that are going to help them (with) their fundamentals and get them from a technique standpoint. But I've got to feel good that they've got the leadership qualities and can mesh with some of my thoughts on the quarterback position. My one-on-one time them and just being around them is as important to me as what they can do from a Pro Day or workouts."

  • About the only sport that compares in popularity among fans to the NFL playoffs is March Madness in college basketball. Only in the NFL could a franchise from a media market like Green Bay even exist. Only in the NCAA men's tournament could the Big East, which had 11 teams make the field, have as many teams left in the Sweet 16 as the City of Richmond (where Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth both play hoops).

  • How can it be that the Patriots are loaded for bear once again? As it currently stands, they may have the biggest hammer of the draft – even more so than having two first-round selections – with the 33rd pick of the draft. It is expected that only Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton are QB locks to go in the first round, with Jake Locker likely fitting into the mix later in the round. But, after the first day ends, only two or three teams will have a rookie QB and many more will be in need. With 18 hours to wheel and deal, the Patriots could find themselves stockpiling picks for 2012 as well – the rich just keep getting richer.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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