The primary representatives for both sides at least resumed non-mediated talks last week. Those talks broke after only a couple days, and while there was an initial hint of optimism there was also cautionary words that there is still work to do before an agreement will be reached.
The other side – the one that affects many more people – can be found in NFL cities across the nation. Some teams have issued reduced pay or furloughs to their employees. The Vikings aren't there yet, but, according to one employee, owner Zygi Wilf will re-evaluate things by Aug. 1 if the lockout continues.
Interestingly, the men and women of the organization don't seem to take strongly to one side or another. They are more like the fans, wanting a resolution and imploring (even if not publicly) both sides to give in the spirit of compromise.
While players and owners have millions to gain or lose, depending on the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement, the employees – the ones who will likely never sniff a six-figure salary – are the ones that will be hurt the most. They haven't made enough to sock away millions and hibernate while the chilly negotiations and rhetoric continue. Players were warned to save 25 percent of their 2010 earnings to allow for living expenses while income potentially falls to zero in September.
Of course, we all know, in many cases, that didn't happen with the players. There are sports cars to buy, vacations to take and summer parties to host. Some will live as if an NFL paycheck is guaranteed come Week 1 (read: Sept. 11) this year. In reality, that's more of a wish than a guarantee, despite both sides knowing they lose as a whole if the lockout affects the regular season.
It's the $30,0000-$80,000 workforce at Winter Park that could feel the pinch first, the hand-to-mouth, every-day working crew that sets the tables, scouts the players, prepares the practice fields, markets the team and more that have the most immediate stakes in the stare-down duel between two thoroughbreds with blinders.
Coaches and coordinators are getting anxious to work with their 2011 product. In the Vikings' case, there are many new faces on the coaching staff and in the player ranks.
"You look forward to bringing everybody together and shaping and molding your team and creating a culture that you want on that team. When that time comes, we'll be able to get that done. It's just a matter of when that occurs," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "We're all excited and anxious about getting that started, but I would think that would probably be the case in the other 31 cities as well."
And the front office would like to be able to add to that roster through veteran and rookie free agency.
"It's the most unique offseason because there are so many unknowns, from every aspect," said Rick Spielman, vice president of player personnel.
"We've had time to talk extensively, almost to exhaustion on all the [free-agent] scenarios. We've had meetings with ownership and went through the scenarios with the ownership so they know what's going on. We'll just have to sit here and see how it all plays out."
And even beyond all the public proclamations and utter hooey emanating from player representatives and league suits are relationships being put on hold. Staffers aren't allowed to communicate with players, some of which they consider friends first and co-workers second.
The lockout has many victims and no real winners (except maybe the lawyers profiting more with each day it extends). But there is one growing theme from it – frustration. Coaches want to coach, players want to play (at least by the time the regular season is supposed to start) and employees want to continue to facilitate the show from behind the scenes. For now, anyways, those desires continue to be put on lockout lockdown.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.