Charlie Batch: '100 Percent Chance' of 2011 Lockout
Smith seems to have a solid handle on the media/message part of his job. He wants it made clear, to the players and the public, that any threat of a work stoppage is coming from the owners' end. The owners are the ones who opted out of the current CBA. The owners are the ones refusing to share the finanical information Smith is requesting. And if there's no football in 2011, it will be because the owners decided to lock out the players, NOT because the players went on strike. It is crucial for Smith to communicate this message to the players, because he believes it is crucial for the players to communicate it to the public.
Florio's PFT analysis offers the opinion that the owners are bluffing, and that too many of them are carrying too much debt to afford a lockout. But the players' side believes that a lockout would actually be a money-making opportunity for the owners, since the newly extended TV contracts pay off even if there are no games and overhead would be greatly reduced since they wouldn't have to pay their players or open their stadiums.
The sides have so far had one face-to-face negotiation, on June 3. The next day, Smith was on Capitol Hill, meeting with congressional committee members who represent a second part of his strategy for playing hardball with the owners. And he spent most of the weeks that followed flying around to different minicamps to address players on various teams. There is no date set for the resumption of talks, but people on both sides have indicated that they could start up again at the end of this month or the beginning of August.
If no agreement is reached by March, the 2010 season would be played without a salary cap -- a possibility that scares both sides for a variety of reasons. That could actually work in favor of preventing a lockout. If the sides are motivated to do a deal to avoid the uncapped 2010, this thing could get settled before the real threats and serious rancor get started. But it's clear so far, based on what Smith and now apparently Charlie Batch have said, that the union wants its players to know how real the threat of the lockout is, even if it does feel distant.