Our long national nightmare is finally over. Not that one. The one that comes each February and has no football for 6 months. The NFL kicks off tonight. Here are the stories catching our eyes at the moment.
1: Ezekiel Elliott has officially been suspended but not yet. We know Elliott will play week 1. We don’t know what will happen after that, although many observers are relatively confident that an injunction will be granted before being, eventually, upheld by the courts. This is because of the concept of irreparable harm. The league is in the unenviable position of arguing that missing games, while being paid, does no irreparable harm to players. They must make this argument consistently, despite losing consistently, because to not defend their interpretation would risk nullifying it in the future. While the NFLPA is likely to get the injunction, however, it is equally unlikely to prevail in court. The CBA allows broad discretion to the Commissioner, which means the league can act unfairly since it decides what is fair to begin with. Still, for fantasy owners and Cowboys fans, all is well on the Elliott front, at least for 2017.
2: Half of the teams in the league have a suspended player for week 1. Expect this to be a bone of contention moving forward. 23 total players on NFL rosters are suspended.
3: It seems like both the NFL and the NFLPA are preparing for the inevitable work stoppage in 2021. The NFLPA cannot allow Roger Goodell and the league to maintain the power to discipline on a whim. In order to stop that from happening the players will have to give something up and the only thing the owners will want is money. Will the NFLPA be willing to give up, or take a smaller percentage of growth moving forward? Time will tell, but the answer is almost certainly, no.
4: As Michael Bennett proved this week, no matter what happens now, NFL players are going to speak out against police misconduct given that it pertains largely to people that look like, or in the case of Bennett, are them. What Michael Bennett described, if true, is horrific and should result in the loss of a job for at least 1 officer. Of course that does not appear to be the world that we live in. With a police union in Cleveland refusing to take part in a game day ceremony the war of words, and actions of protest, is escalating. The NFL, surprisingly, released a statement in support of Bennett, which might eventually put them at odds with police unions. It shouldn’t matter to the league though if they believe in supporting their players. It isn’t going to matter to the players.
5: Colin Kaepernick's absence is about to get even more difficult to explain. Some team is going to lose a starter, back up, or both to a long term injury and will then need to justify signing an unheard of street free agent over Kaepernick. With each passing day Kaepernick's absence remains a black eye on a league that usually forgives far more egregious transgressions.
And Another Thing…..
It looks like the race for the top pick in 2018 is going to be a good one. Buffalo got in the game late by trading away 2 of their best young players after sitting out free agency and while the Bills seem to really want to be the worst team this season the Jets, Browns, and 49ers are still the odds on favorites to win the luxury of selecting the first quarterback in the deepest quarterback class in recent memory. Of course, the Browns might simply trade out of that pick if they like what they see from Deshone Kizer this year.