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Cris Collinsworth, Peter King on Doomsday in the NFL

Did everyone enjoy Doomsday on Saturday? You probably especially enjoyed it if you lived in Cleveland, as it was probably the best day weather-wise of the year, and the Indians came home with another win at home over the Reds in front of a sellout crowd.


With that said, I want to briefly talk about a different type of Doomsday: one that SI's Peter King brought up in his Monday Morning Quarterback article last week, a possibility that just sounded terrifying for the future of football:

Longtime players' attorney Jeffrey Kessler would like to see the draft abolished; in fact, as Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal has reported, Kessler would like to see no player-acquisition rules. No draft. Free agency for every unsigned player. What would the NFL look like if every player and every team were allowed to make its own business decisions that would, of course, be in the best interests of each?

Say the TV contracts were abolished and teams could make their own deals. "If the Cowboys could sell their rights, maybe they'd get $500 million a year, and maybe the Bengals would get $50 [million],'' he said. Say Peyton Manning could sign anywhere. Could some owners field super teams and some field Kansas City Royal-type teams?

Say there was no draft. It's every player for himself. Collinsworth isn't even sure that's the worst thing. Nor am I. But it'd certainly be revolutionary. And say drug-testing was abolished. How many doors do you want to open?

"It's possible the structure of the game could change forever,'' Collinsworth said. "Now, game after game after game, week after week after week, goes down to the wire. The pro game could become like college football -- 55-14 most games, with four or five tremendous games of national interest every year. Now we have that many every week.''

Collinsworth had an interesting prediction as to when the season would officially start:

Collinsworth's point is an interesting one. He thinks the appeals court will side with the owners and the current lockout will stay in place. If it does, neither side will be supremely motivated to move; the owners will figure they've already made a strong offer (the March 11 offer) and will wait for the players to budge. But the players, on a tremendous streak in the courts right now, will figure they've made sound arguments in front of a mediator in Washington and judges in Minneapolis, and even if the lockout stays legal, their antitrust case will have a good chance in the Eighth Circuit.

And the players won't blink until they start missing paychecks. Collinsworth saw it twice as a player, in 1982 and 1987. "The only thing I'm absolutely certain of,'' he told me, "is that there will be players broke by the middle of September. There will be pressure to make a deal. But there will be pressure by owners too. They've got payments to make too -- stadium mortgages.''

Collinsworth gives them three or four weeks to make a deal. Then a week of free agency, signing undrafted college players and unsigned veterans. Two weeks of camp. One preseason game. Then the season starts, either on Oct. 30 or Nov. 6.

This would be extremely frustrating. The only thing that might tide over some multi-sport Cleveland fans would be if the Indians continue to play hot an are in the middle of some epic World Series run. Still, things need to be settled as soon as possible, and Collinsworth appropiately has the same passionate opinion about this situation that many fans do:

"God, I just wish I could get through to somebody,'' he said. "You know how when you're talking to your kids, and you know positively what the right thing to do is, and you also know they're going to do something else, and there's nothing you can do about it? That's how I feel now. And, God, is it painful to watch.

"The game's so good. The players are making money. The owners are making money. The commissioner's got some good safety initiatives going. The networks are thrilled. The fans are thrilled. The game's never been better. It's time to quit sugarcoating this thing and really start thinking about what the NFL really might look like at the end of the process.''