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Skins' Armstrong coaching youth soccer

Really enjoyed this Washington Post story by Rick Maese about Anthony Armstrong coaching 7- and 8-year-old soccer players during his lockout-imposed downtime. I found it hilarious that Armstrong knows almost nothing about soccer and basically took the assignment because his girlfriend's kid had no team.

In my conversations with NFL players over the past couple of months, I've consistently heard them talk about how nice it is to have some time to do things they don't normally get to do this time of year -- hang out with their kids, do some charity work, coach soccer, whatever. And while I assume the itch will set in before long, these kinds of stories serve to make a critical point on the players' behalf.

When and if the time comes to actually talk about settling the labor mess, one of the most important concessions the players want from the owners is a shortening of the offseason program. Specifically, the players dislike the "voluntary" offseason workouts where everybody on the team but one player shows up and the coach does the old passive-aggressive, "Yeah, it's voluntary, but it sure is disappointing that not everybody's here" thing. The players' central argument is that too many physical demands are made on them as it is, and one way to relieve that would be to cut back the offseason requirements. When they responded to the league's initial request for an 18-game regular season, one of the requests in the players' counterproposal was that the offseason programs be cut from 14 weeks down to five.

This is a point around which negotiation can happen. Once the lockout is over and a new CBA is in place, you can expect to see shorter offseason programs and specific rules in place that govern what teams and coaches can and cannot require of the players during spring and summer workouts. It's a point on which the teams have shown a willingness to give, and it's the kind of quality-of-life issue that will appeal to the players when it's time to talk about what they got in exchange for the things they ended up giving.

And who knows? Even if he doesn't have quite this much downtime next spring, Armstrong might get to return for the second season of his soccer coaching career.