The most gripping part of Thursday’s NFL Draft didn’t come when Cam Newton was picked with the No. 1 pick by the Carolina Panthers, it came moments before the first pick when the New York fan base showered NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with chants of “We want football.”
This week’s NFL Draft is a bittersweet event. Judging by the number of posts and traffic on http://ballhyped.com today, it was one of sports world’s biggest days of the year post-Super Bowl.
But the lingering NFL labor issues still cast a dark shadow over the event. The lockout lasted some 45 days, and, despite the recent ruling to end an official “lockout,” the immediate future of the league is still very unclear. The commissioner did respond to the chants with a smile and a “I hear you, so do I,” but nobody knows for certain when the league will return to some sense of normality.
The league claims players will be able to resume their day-to-day operations beginning Friday, but wasn’t that supposed to be the case last week?
Then there’s the NFL’s appeal, which could restore the lockout and send all of Thursday’s NFL newbies back into a state of labor limbo.
All of which will only hurt the future of the league, whether we’re talking about fans losing interest and dropping support for the league (like the NBA and NHL, following their respective lockouts), or the rookies (particularly quarterbacks like Newton) failing to get enough practice and playbook study time in before the start of the 2011 season – if there even is one.
Where do we go from here? Nobody in or around the NFL is quite sure. The draft will go on, but that’s all we can count on at this point.
So all the talk about Mark Ingram, drafted 28th overall by New Orleans, overtaking Reggie Bush as the next playmaker for the Saints, or A.J. Green bringing Carson Palmer out of a reported retirement, will have to remain just that … talk.
Here’s hoping the NFL and the players start walking the walk so we can get back to playing football again. Because all this talk, and the “I hear you, so do I,” quotes are getting a little old to all of us.
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