Mullin: Little optimism that 2011 will start on time

Mullin: Little optimism that 2011 will start on time
April 14, 2011, 3:52 pm
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Thursday, April 14, 2011Posted: 10:55 AM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

I was hoping for a little more encouraging answer from somewhere on the panel to my question of Given that a labor settlement is generally expected at some point, whats your pick for the month when we have football again?

The overall issue before the Chicago Chapter of the National Sports Marketing Network on Wednesday was The impact of a Work Stoppage on Sports Business: What Can We Expect and How Do We Prepare? Terry Lefton, editor-at-large for Sports Business DailySportsBusiness Journal, served as moderator for the group.

And the best anyone expected was from Comcast SportsNet Chicago colleague and two-time Super Bowl winner Howard Griffith, whose thought was late August, maybe September. What that would mean is no Bears in Canton, O., for the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 7 and probably no training camp in Bourbonnais.

Judge Susan Nelson has mandated federal mediation but Howard suggested that personalities, specifically NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and players chief DeMaurice Smith, may be more of a factor that is being noted.

Not that either is a problem per se, but both are in their first negotiations with the other side and nobody wants to be the one to go back to his side and say, Well, I got a deal but its not quite the deal we wanted.

(Were not going to spiral off too far here into the latest on the labor matter; I hate writing about it and Im guessing that you hate reading about it. But some particularly interesting thoughts came up at the get-together.)

Mike McCartney, director of football operations at Priority Sports and a former member of front offices with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, represents a number of top NFL players and predicted that when free agency does arrive in whatever form its going to be this year, Its going to be crazy.

McCartney, whose prediction of when the impasse breaks was pegged to whether Judge Nelson stops the lockout and the decision is upheld on appeal, also offered that I dont think were ever going to get to an 18-game schedule.

Probably the most pessimistic forecast was from agent Kristen Kuliga of K Sports & Entertainment LLC out of Boston, who voted for October as the seasons starting point. Kristen was very concise on details of the proceedings to this point, and she did candidly note that players do not like the lockout situation but they also arent particularly put out to be missing the offseason programs mandated by some teams.

Bob Dittrich, VP of Client Services for MillerCoors, threw out something a lot of you are only too aware of. What happens with fantasy leagues, now such a big part of the game? Nobody knows whos going to be on what teams, he said.

The hard part in all of this is trying to gauge who may blink first, where a crack might occur. I was told as far back as last season by an NFC team higher-up that he had never seen the owners as unified as they were and appear to still be. And as former Chicago Tribune colleague David Haugh said Wednesday, Its a lot easier to keep 32 billionaires together than 1,900 players.

Strictly speaking

Catch CSNPhilly.com colleague Ray Didinger with Mike Florio on ProFootballTalk Live this morning after 11 a.m.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.