As NFL lockout looms, a twist emerges

By now, we all know that the NFL owners And NFLPA agreed to extend the expiration of their current CBA for 24 hours meaning it expires tonight at 11:59PM.

Why is this?

There have been two interesting pieces of news that have come out in the past few weeks that may have swung some of the momentum back towards the NFLPA.

First, on Tuesday U.S. District Judge David Doty reversed a previous ruling that would have given NFL owners the ability to access $4 billion in television revenues, even in the event of a lockout.  This would have created a “war chest” of sorts for the owners, who would receive a key revenue stream while potentially no games are played in 2011.  Advantage, players.

The second story is a more somber one.  On February 17th, Dave Duerson, the former Pro Bowl safety for the Chicago Bears (as well as the New York Giants and then-Phoenix Cardinals), died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.  Duerson’s wife filed for divorce in 2007 and had filed for bankruptcy in September of 2010, but the chilling text messages he sent before his suicide may give another motive.  It also has sent shock waves throughout the NFL.

In his final message to family members, Duerson clearly states that his brain be given to the NFL’s brain bank (a reference to the Boston University center that is studying the effects of concussions on deceased NFL players’ brains).  One anonymous source told the New York Times that Duerson told him that Duerson thought he may have C.T.E. – a variation of Dementia that is linked to head injuries in athletes.  The fact that Duerson spared his brain makes this tragedy even more heartbreaking.

How does this tie into the current NFL labor dispute?  First off, player safety and the need for better medical benefits for retired players are two key issues that the NFLPA has brought to the forefront in recent years.  In addition, this could throw a wrench in the league’s proposal for extending the regular season to 18 games, as more games could only lead to more injuries.

Regardless of what side of the table you agree with, a good source of funding the costs of these improved benefits for players should come via a rookie wage scale.  The NBA already has one, and I don’t see young players suffering financially and the NHL set the trend early with an entry level contract that is set around 900K per year for newcomers to the league.

When JaMarcus Russell is basically run out of the league after earning $32 million in guaranteed money, yet other former players are denied health insurance due to “pre-existing conditions,” the pay scale is nearly non-existent and way too lopsided. Anyone who’s ever been laid off and had to worry about benefits (including yours truly) can surely relate.

No matter what happens in the “Billionaires vs. Millionaires” labor dispute, here’s hoping Duerson did not live (or die) in vain.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

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