Football Analogies Break Out to Describe Lockout Status

Football Analogies Break Out to Describe Lockout Status

As the NFL lockout creeps toward the point of no return, signs of progress between players and owners are picking up. Just read the quotes from league sources in Don Banks' latest Inside the NFL column on the labor situation. The tone has changed. They're not talking about the difference in total revenue or the dates of upcoming legal proceedings.

They're talking about punching it into the end zone.

"I'd say that back in March, we weren't in the same stadium," said one league source of the players and owners. "But if you think of both sides as a team, now we're in the red zone, we're driving, we can see the goal line and we have momentum. But can we still screw it up? Absolutely. That's why [Thursday] and Friday are big days, because it's back to the (negotiating) formula that's been most successful."

"It does feel like we're at the 5-yard line, and we're right there," one NFL general manager said Wednesday. "But it's like Jerome Bettis has the ball, and I've seen him fumble on the 1-yard line before. If there's a fumble now, hopefully either Goodell or Smith plays Ben Roethlisberger and stops the whole thing from falling apart."

Okay, so nobody is willing to go out on a limb and say a new collective bargaining agreement is essentially a done deal, but a sure sign everybody is getting pretty excited is when the financial and legal jargon is replaced by football lingo. If you've been following this crisis from day one, you may know better than to get your hopes up by now, but take a look at the list of game changing plays that have gone down over the last week or so (courtesy of PFT):

  • - The Pro Football Hall of Fame is still planning to hold the preseason opener on August 7, adding both the players and owners want to play the game. Not having the nationally televised game would result in the first major loss of revenue since the lockout began.
  • - The players' lawyers in the Tom Brady antitrust case renegotiated their contracts, and it's believed they will now be paid a flat fee regardless of outcome. This suggests the players will not go through with the suit, as the lawyers basically would be surrendering money over an extended period of time.
  • - The owners are currently scheduled to meet on July 21, but a source informed PFT they would convene sooner if a deal were ready. 24 of the 32 owners must vote to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement.
  • - The lawyers for both sides have been meeting throughout this week, even working overtime yesterday, as they apparently have begun preparing the actual paperwork that will eventually become the CBA.

Another great sign is the Eagles' unofficial mid-June deadline to decide whether they would hold training camp at Lehigh came and went without so much of a peep from either the team or the University. It was reported they would like to reach a decision one way or the other before now, but much has happened since then, with negotiations finally taking place in earnest over the past month to month-and-a-half.

Les Bowen interviewed Eagles COO Don Smolenski, who is responsible for organizing the annual retreat to Bethlehem, and he sounded very much like a man who will be--and perhaps already is--busy with preparations.

"So far, the dialogue has been, 'We're going to go with it, we're going to do the best we can with whatever date comes,' " he said.

When it comes down to it, camp is probably going to be held at Lehigh as planned, as will the 2011 NFL season. There is simply too much money involved for either side to walk away from, and after all, that's what this whole thing is about. Could negotiations still break down faster than Dimitri Patterson in coverage? Nobody has been willing to take a leap of faith on the record whether those fears have merit or not.

But they want you to know it's not a Hail Mary pass or 60-yard field goal into the wind. I think everybody secretly would like to bet on professional football completing the fourth quarter comeback.

>> NFL labor negotiations 'at the 5-yard line' [SI.com]
>> His job is to keep Linc jumpin' and Eagles ready to spring to action [Philly.com]

Instant Replay: Rockies 8, Phillies 2

Instant Replay: Rockies 8, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

The Colorado Rockies laid the wood to the Phillies again Tuesday night. The Rockies hit three home runs en route to an 8-2 win at Citizens Bank Park. The Rockies beat the Phillies, 8-1, on Monday night.

The Phillies have lost four in a row, eight of their last nine and 19 of their last 23 to fall to 15-28.

Two games into this four-game series, the Phillies have been held to just two runs in 13 innings against a pair of rookie Colorado starting pitchers.

Starting pitching report
Zach Eflin had his second straight poor outing. He was tagged for 10 hits and eight runs in six innings. He gave up three home runs.

Eflin has given up 21 hits and 15 runs in his last two starts.

The Rockies got another good start from a rookie. This time it was German Marquez, who held the Phillies to a run over six innings. Rookie Jeff Hoffman held the Phillies to a run over seven innings in the series opener on Monday night.

Bullpen report
Mark Leiter Jr. stopped the bleeding with two scoreless innings.

The Rockies' bullpen has given up just one run in five innings in the series.

At the plate
The Phillies scored their first run on a bases-loaded walk in the third inning. Andrew Knapp homered in the ninth to make it a six-run game.

Rockies leadoff man Charlie Blackmon hit a pair of two-run homers against Eflin. He leads the majors with 62 hits. Blackmon has seven home runs in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park. He hit five in a three-game series last season.

Gerardo Parra also homered for the Rockies, who have the best record in the National League at 30-17.

Transactions
The Phillies placed outfielder Daniel Nava on the 10-day disabled list with a slight hamstring strain. He is expected to return sometime next week. The team opted for an extra bullpen arm and recalled reliever Adam Morgan from Triple A to take Nava's roster spot.

Health check
Howie Kendrick took outdoor batting practice Tuesday for the first time since suffering an abdominal strain on April 15. He could head out on minor-league rehab later this week and be ready to return sometime next week. Kendrick can play corner infield and corner outfield, so he could take away at-bats from Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders if they don't get going. Both were benched Tuesday night (see story).

Up next
The series continues Wednesday night. Jeremy Hellickson (5-1, 3.44) will pitch against Colorado right-hander Tyler Chatwood (3-6. 5.09).

More WRs, more buzz, but Jordan Matthews unfazed with Eagles

More WRs, more buzz, but Jordan Matthews unfazed with Eagles

After leading the Eagles in passing targets for the past two seasons, Jordan Matthews suddenly became an afterthought when the club signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. There's even speculation Matthews might be available in a trade if a solid offer comes along.

The Eagles' investments at the wide receiver position this offseason would certainly appear to put Matthews' future with the team in question. In addition to Jeffery and Smith, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson were brought aboard in the draft, all as Matthews enters the final year of his rookie contract.

None of which seems to concern Matthews, who described the trade rumors as "fake news" on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, where Phase 3 of Eagles OTAs was underway.

"I don't care about any of that stuff," Matthews said. "I feel like it's the NFL, if you think about it, everybody has a price. Those talks, they happen, so it really doesn't faze me."

To be clear, there has been very little noise to suggest the Eagles were at any point actively shopping Matthews or the fourth-year veteran is on the trade block. A reporter merely stated a belief the Eagles would be open to moving Matthews in the right deal. It was enough to get people talking, and once Jeffery and Smith signed days later, the rumors weren't going away.

Matthews' contract situation has a lot do with the reaction. Apart from all the new faces in the receivers room, this offseason was the first he was eligible to sign a contract extension.

There is absolutely nothing to report on that front. Instead, the Eagles directed funds toward Jeffery and Smith — who are viewed by some as his potential replacements.

"I haven't really talked to anybody about that," Matthews said. "I really don't focus on that too much, to be honest.

"I think you all know me by now. That's not really what fuels me, so it's like one of the last things I actually really think about. Whatever is going to happen is going to end up happening, so I just try to come out here and play hard and do what I need to do for my team."

Matthews turns 25 in July and has impressive numbers for the Eagles, recording 225 receptions for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. Only six players in NFL history amassed more in all three categories their first three seasons.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Matthews will reprise his role as the Eagles' primary slot receiver in 2017, downplaying the possibility of a reduced role. Pederson also noted Matthews' tight bond with quarterback Carson Wentz.

Pederson also declined to make mention of Matthews' standing with the club beyond '17, nor is it really this coach's place to say.

"Jordan has been a big part of this offense, and he is still a big part of this offense," Pederson said on Tuesday. "He's got a great relationship and a great rapport with Carson, and Carson feels very comfortable with him."

Despite trade rumors, his contract situation and the simple fact the Eagles brought in a bunch of players who would gladly take his targets and his job, Matthews remains positive. In fact, he sees Jeffery and Smith making life easier for the rest of the offense.

"I'm glad, to be honest," Matthews said. "I'm glad to have Torrey, glad to have Alshon, the rookies.

"Obviously, having more guys on the field that have that type of production over a long period of time, they're going to garner attention. That's going to help me get free."

Matthews is coming off of his worst season, posting 73 receptions for 804 yards and three touchdowns. Much of his problems seemed to stem from the lack of options in the passing attack, particularly at receiver, allowing defenses to hone in on Matthews.

Furthermore, Matthews was plagued by an ankle injury for much of the season, from which he is still recovering.

"Still getting there," Matthews said. "An ankle messes up the whole chain. It's not like an upper-body extremity injury. When you're dealing with an ankle, there's a lot more stuff that you have to continue to get right from the back down."

Despite the increasing competition at the Eagles' receiver position, Matthews doesn't sound very worried about his ankle, either. Like trade rumors and concerns about his contract, that too will pass in time.

"We've got a lot of time," Matthews said. "I know I'll be good when it's time to roll."