The NFL Coaches Association joined the fight against the lockout, filing an amicus on behalf of the players. Coaches are in a precarious situation, so no names were attached to the filing, only the association.
In one of the more intriguing aspects of the current work stoppage, coaches have found themselves squarely in the middle of the debate. They are employees of the owners and the conduit between management and players. From the time the lockout began, with the exception of one 24-hour window, coaches found themselves forced to not speak to players, even though they spent exponentially more time on their job dealing with players than with owners. Coaches were management, not labor.
Not so fast, my friend.
On Wednesday, while owners meetings were going on in Indianapolis, the NFL Coaches Association filed an amicus brief on behalf of the players.
The term "amicus" comes from the Roman legal term amicus curae
and refers to a "friend of the court" who supplies an unsolicited legal opinion to the judge taking the side of one litigant in a contested court case. While viewed as management hired and fired at the behest of owners, the coaches association cited job security and antitrust violations on the part of owners. Claiming the league "is attempting an end-run around a unanimous Supreme Court" decision in the American Needle antitrust case of 2010, the league is in violation of the Sherman Act, according to the amicus.
"To me the deal is real simple: coaches are opposed to the lockout because it is negatively affecting coaches," said Larry Kennan, director of the NFLCA told NFL.com. "If it were a (players) strike, we would be against the strike, like we were in '87. This just happens to be the owners and we're opposed to them, because they're locking out. But, if it was a strike, we'd be against the players."
While what Kennan said makes sense in terms of the legal opinion of the coaches, it has truly set them apart. The ability of coaches to flip-flop their allegiance between owners and players depending on the situation comes off as a little shady. None of the current NFL coaches had their names attached to the brief, but they are represented by the NFLCA and apparently, as members of the association, they agree with their viewpoint.
In the process, the NFL may have created a third tier of the employment structure. It's been two-and-a-half months since the lockout began. During the period leading up the draft, during the draft and after the draft, coaches remained part of management. They stood beside the owners in the dispute, even though they were caught in the middle. Given their current stance against ownership, it would seem as though coaches could potentially be locked out as well. Some teams have forced paycuts on their staff. To date, the Vikings have not.
From the fans perspective, the lockout is maddening. It's frustrating. But, given the constant twists and turns, it isn't boring.
Now we know why St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman kept ominously quiet in the days following the announcement of an agreement between the Vikings and Ramsey County. He has his own plan to postulate … and it's a doozy. Under his plan, the Vikings stay in Minneapolis. As a result, Ramsey County officials (and the Vikings) are against it. He suggests blowing up Target Center and moving the Timberwolves to St. Paul to play in the Xcel Energy Center. Seeing as Target Center draws much more than just the T-Wolves, every business interest in that part of Minneapolis (and Hennepin County) is against it. Improve the Xcel Energy Center and build practice facilities for the Wild and Timberwolves. Everyone that isn't a fan of either team is probably against it. Build a new stadium for the St. Paul Saints. Everyone outside the local area of the stadium is likely against it. Fund parks and libraries in St. Paul at a $3 million-a-year clip. Why wouldn't the rest of the state be against it? How do you pay for it? Add two cents to every drink at a bar or restaurant. Heavy drinkers who would be kicking out a quarter every time they go out are against it. With that much opposition, there is little chance Coleman's idea advances.
Commissioner Roger Goodell hinted this week that, once the current labor impasse is resolved, the league may be open to increasing the roster size by three – both on game day and on the current 53-man roster. He cited the lack of offseason opportunities for coaches to work with young players that make the back end of the 53-man roster and the practice squad.
Goodell also said the fans are getting turned off to the lockout as well, as both sides are coming to realize that NFL fans are energized by free agency and the draft, as well as minicamps to learn more about the new players joining the team. Aside from being booed loudly by fans, who began chanting "We want football!" at the draft, Goodell has seen significantly lower ratings for the ESPN and NFL Network draft coverage and reduced page hits on the league's website. The fans' disdain for the lockout is starting to be felt at the highest levels of the game.
Packers fans are rejoicing as one of their own, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photographer Benny Sieu was an honorable mention in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 43rd Annual photo contest with this picture of Clay Matthews trying to remove Brett Favre's jersey like a zealous Justin Bieber fan.
While there is no free agency yet, it hasn't stopped the rumor mill from running. After Christian Ponder was asked his feelings about potentially having Donovan McNabb as a teammate, Jets QB Mark Sanchez did his job to pump up Randy Moss, saying he would love to have the former Patriot on his team. Thanks to his brief contract with the Vikings, Moss became an unrestricted free agent. When he was claimed by Tennessee, the Titans took over his Vikings contract.
Some players are doing their own lobbying effort. Redskins running back Clinton Portis, who still has a contract with SiriusXM Radio, said he would strongly consider joining the hated rival Giants. He backed that up by telling Comcast SportsNet Washington, "I would love the opportunity" to play with the Giants. However, the more he got talking (which is Portis' wont to do), he mentioned he would also love to play with a team with a great quarterback, adding, by his own admission, New Orleans, San Diego, Indianapolis, New England, Philadelphia, Green Bay and Pittsburgh. He won't go to Oakland, because he doesn't like his role in an Al Saunders offense. Portis was cut in February by the Redskins because he was going to be due $8.3 million in 2011. In nine seasons, Portis has played 16 games just four times. He has played just 13 games in the last two seasons.
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.