Ray Lewis PED story could provide fodder for labor talks

January 21, 2011 | Thyrl Nelson

It’s been nearly two days since the story linking Ray Lewis to PED use surfaced, and so far it seems that nationally at least, it’s not regarded as much of a big deal. Or, the press may be too preoccupied with the teams still playing football to pay much attention to  any story about a team or player who isn’t. My guess is that this will see a lot more scrutiny before it goes away.

As all NFL roads seem to be pointed in the direction of labor negotiations, entertain this notion, or conspiracy theory if you will:

 

First, from the beginning of this season, if not before, the league began planting seeds into the minds of the public and the union, that they would be going to the table to negotiate over more than money this off-season. The earliest and loudest calls seemed to have been for the 18-game schedule, and blood testing for HGH. What they likely found out from the fans’ response was that many really cared about the possibility of more football, but as for PED testing, not so much. My theory all along has been that both were thrown out not only to garner support for the owners ahead of negotiations, but also as fodder that could ultimately be conceded at the table in lieu of having to compromise on money.

 

Having said that, is it beyond the realm of possibility that this too was a designed campaign on the part of NFL owners, a final attempt to get support for the cause of blood testing?

 

As the football world was somewhat puzzled by Al Davis’ decision to fire coach Tom Cable despite an improved team in 2010, maybe he did it for bigger reasons (I realize that the theory devolves greatly when I treat Davis as a mastermind, but perhaps he was working off of someone else’s advice). Surely Davis and the Raiders, amongst presumably others within the league knew of Jackson’s involvement with S.W.A.T.S. (and to that end maybe Lewis’ too) and that he’d have to abandon that relationship as a head coach, leading us to this point in the saga.

 

Forget the conspiracies, at the very least, if it becomes a big story, it’ll be an incredible stroke of luck for the owners as they head to the negotiating table. Given that stroke of luck, I’d fully expect the league to seize the opportunity to fan the flames as much as possible now that the story’s out.

 

If the owners could go into the negotiations with boisterous public support for more games and blood testing for PEDs, then conceding one or the other back to the union along with lightening up OTA schedules going forward, and maybe making the game day inactives a thing of the past, then the union can either walk away with a win while giving the owners back their money, or lose in the court of public opinion as the owners are now fighting on our behalf as fans yet trying to meet the players “halfway” too.

 

Simple math says that when millionaires try to match financial wherewithal against billionaires they’re going to lose anyway when the game turns to hardball. Playing hardball without hurting the brand however could be tricky…unless the owners are fighting to give us, the fans, what we want. That might actually bolster the brand. If the league has proven that they know anything, marketing is it, so manipulating the court of public opinion should be right up their alley.

 

What I want is football, on time and as expected. I couldn’t care less about 18-game schedules or blood testing. I’m betting the owners really couldn’t either, and I won’t be surprised at all if next season sees the owners walking away with all of the money they sought in the first place along with a 16-game schedule and no blood testing.

 

If you’re one of those who really wants the 18-game schedule, and you’re willing to entertain a mild conspiracy, you’d better get behind blood testing for PEDs. Absent any support for that cause, the 2 extra games will be all the owners have to concede at the table and all you’re likely to get then is an extra bye week.

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