Some quick thoughts on the return of the NFL.
- Let's start with the obvious: I am happy that the NFL has at least begun to get itself back together in time for there to be football in 2011, though it remains to be seen just what kind of football it will be.
- It's good, in my opinion, that the league and players' association are dedicating $1 billion in additional funds over the lifetime of the agreement to retired players -- the lack of care for men who sacrificed their minds and bodies for our entertainment has been shameful.
- I'm also relieved that the 16-game schedule has been preserved. Anything more, in my opinion, is asking to see someone die on the field of play, and no, I don't think that's an exaggeration. Teams barely survive the attrition of 16 games as it is.
- Selfishly, as a fan who roots for the laundry, I'm glad the franchise tag remains in place, though I have been able to understand individual players' objections to it.
- I'm still not sure how I feel about the new rules governing padded practices -- the long story short is that they will be reduced greatly. On the one hand, it was clear the league had to do something about head injuries, and full-contact practices in addition to weekly games can't have helped...but on the other, to quote a Peter King source, "We complain about tackling all the time...How are we gonna teach tackling without practicing tackling enough?'' (And P.S. -- highly recommend the linked King summarization / analysis of the new deal.SI also has a .pdf summary of the deal here.)
- I'm similarly ambivalent about increased injury guarantees in contracts -- guaranteed contracts, in my opinion, being among the banes of baseball, but the guarantees are mild and limited compared with baseball's ridiculous full guarantees. But again, selfishly, as a fan who roots for the team rather than the individuals (mostly), I don't want to see money in a salary-capped league go anywhere but onto the field.
- It's also a little worrisome that the teams will have to get under way now in, oh, about a week. But if there's one team that can handle that, it's the Patriots under Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft.
- Speaking of Mr. Kraft -- I already had the utmost respect for the man, but I have to say it managed to increase with news of the completed deal today and his remarks on it, which began, importantly, with an apology to the fans. At a time when he should be grieving his late wife, Mr. Kraft instead seems to have played a leadership role in bringing the two sides to an accord. And when the starting center for the Colts is hugging the owner of the Patriots in public, you know something big has gone down.