The NFL is back to being as popular as ever, but it was just one year ago today that the lockout of players took place. It lasted more than four months, but fans quickly forgave.
What a difference a year makes.
It was one year ago today – March 11, 2011 – when the NFL's lockout officially began with the filing of court papers by the player's association after it disbanded as a union. There was plenty of acrimony in the months that ensued, as NFL analysts alternated opinions from the belief that the lockout would be resolved to saying the entire 2012 season could be lost.
Both sides knew what they were in for when the attempts to get a new CBA unraveled. What they didn't realize is the impact the lockout would have on fans. Some were angry. Some were disillusioned. Most were just sad. For many of the new fans to the NFL – the ones that jumped on the bandwagon over the last decade – they had never seen labor discord. The lockout was new to them. For the old-school fans of the NFL, they remembered 1981 and 1987 when the game stopped. For the newbies, it was a state of shock. For the old-timers, it was the potential of something much, much worse.
The NFL didn't need to flex its muscle to prove it was the No. 1 sport in the country, but the lockout cemented that – forcing fans into an unwanted intervention-style version of sports rehab. The NFL is discussed year-round. A lot. Ad nauseum. It's what the talking heads do.
What the league and the players learned was that fans have come to expect the NFL much in the same way they expect water and oxygen. When they were deprived of it, they got more than a little bit salty about it. Baseball can make all the claims it wants about being "America's Game," but if NFL football is going head-to-head with the World Series, even a non-conference game would draw a bigger ratings share. The NFL draft gets better ratings than NBA and NHL playoff games. The NFL is king, and if the owners and players association learned anything from the events that began a year ago today, it was to avoid making your fans go cold turkey again.
They forgave you this last time and many likely don't remember it all started a year ago today. Don't do it again. They may not be so forgiving the next time.
The releases of Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera and Cedric Griffin saved the Vikings approximately $13 million in salary cap space, giving them $20-21 million in available salary cap room. Considering how the Vikings have historically written up contracts, that could be enough to sign at least one marquee free agent and add a few Tier-2 free agents.
While the anticipation is that 2011 left tackle Charlie Johnson will be moved inside to guard, with the release of Hutchinson and Herrera, the only guard on the roster from the Vikings' Week 17 depth chart is Joe Berger. Center Brandon Fusco and tackle DeMarcus Love are also viewed as potential guards, but they weren't listed as such on the final depth chart.
With only two more days before the start of free agency, the NFL still hasn't announced the official salary cap number for 2012. However, reports are coming out saying that the figure will be $120.6 million – a scant $225,000 increase from 2011.
The countdown to the 2012 cover of the Madden video game is already underway. The process has become markedly more drawn out, as each team has two players competing against one another. For the Vikings, it's Percy Harvin vs. Jared Allen. It would seem players with any superstitions would want nothing to do with the process, since there is a well-documented "curse" associated with being the cover boy. Adrian Peterson was a finalist for the Madden cover last year and tore his ACL. Peyton Hillis "won" and had an injury-plagued season in which his numbers dropped significantly. Good luck on getting someone to volunteer for the "honor" of being on the Madden cover.
You have to give the New York Jets some credit, making news Friday that QB Mark Sanchez had been signed to a three-year, $40.5 million extension. In reality, it is a much different story. As part of the extension, Sanchez is guaranteed $20.5 over the next two seasons, but he was in line to have $17.75 million in guaranteed money assured with his former contract, making the increase by signing the new deal $2.75 million. After the first two years of the deal, the Jets have the option in each of the final three years to void the contract at any time without owing Sanchez anything in terms of guarantees. To top it off, with the 2012 portion of his base salary being converted into a signing bonus, the Jets actually save almost $6.5 million against the salary cap. Not too shabby for a contract extension … if you're the Jets organization.
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.