For months, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has pegged the likelihood of a lockout at 14 on a scale of one to 10.
Vikings All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson apparently agrees.
“The owners fully intend to lock us out,” Hutchinson said Friday after the team’s practice, according to Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “That’s why they negotiated a TV
contract that would pay them with the lockout happening [in 2011]. They
fully wanted this to happen because they made sure they were going to be
compensated if in fact there was no season played.”
We still think there’s a chance — a good chance — that the owners are bluffing, and that they want the players to think that a lockout is coming, so that the players will be forced to take the last pre-lockout offer. But we feel less strongly about that than we used to.
But Hutchinson didn’t mention one key reality of the television contracts. If the union prevails in its attempt to block the league from pocketing the TV money in a lockout, the owners won’t be compensated if there’s no season played. And perhaps the leverage will swing to the union.
Either way, the NFL season unofficially officially begins on Sunday night with the Hall of Fame game, and it could be the last unofficial official beginning to an NFL season for a while.