NFC West: 2011 lockout

2014 Predictions: Seattle Seahawks

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
video Seattle Seahawks reporter Terry Blount makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: Green Bay Packers

All the pregame hype will center around the so-called Inaccurate Reception, the controversial Hail Mary catch by Golden Tate two years ago that won the game over the Packers at Seattle on a Monday night. Tate has moved on to Detroit, but the Seahawks now have too many weapons for the Packers to stop, no Hail Mary required. Prediction: Win

Week 2: at San Diego Chargers

The Chargers better hope they play a lot better than they did in the preseason game at Seattle, a 41-14 victory for the Seahawks on Aug. 15. San Diego will play better, but not good enough to beat a much better team. Prediction: Win

Week 3: Denver Broncos

The Broncos and their fans got a tiny bit of meaningless Super Bowl revenge in the preseason opener with a 21-16 victory over the Seahawks in Denver. Enjoy it while it lasts, boys. Repeating that outcome in Seattle is not an option. Prediction: Win

Week 5: at Washington Redskins

Traveling coast to coast to play on the road for a Monday night game is a tough task against any NFL opponent, and even tougher against quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the Seahawks catch a break in this one by coming off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare and be fresh for the journey. Prediction: Win

Week 6: Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave Seattle a little bulletin-board material last month when he said the Seahawks were to blame for the increase in penalty flags during the preseason. There won't be near enough flags against Seattle for the Cowboys to win this one. Prediction: Win

Week 7: at St. Louis Rams

Any division game in the NFC West is a rugged battle. The Rams have a defensive line that gave the Seahawks problems a year ago. But they aren't strong enough overall to beat Seattle, even at home in their out-of-date dome. Prediction: Win

Week 8: at Carolina Panthers

The Seahawks were fortunate to win the season opener at Charlotte a year ago. That Panthers team was better than this one, but back-to-back road games against very physical defensive teams will end the Seattle winning streak. Prediction: Loss

Week 9: Oakland Raiders

Coming off their first loss of the season and returning home against an outmanned opponent, is there any doubt? Prediction: Win

Week 10: New York Giants

The Seahawks easily defeated the Giants 23-0 last year in New Jersey, a dress rehearsal for their Super Bowl victory at the same location -- MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks won't need a rehearsal to roll past the Giants in this one. Prediction: Win

Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs

This likely will be a low-scoring game between two strong defensive teams. Odds are against any team that has to try to win by matching its defense against the Seahawks' D. Prediction: Win

Week 12: Arizona Cardinals

The last time the Cardinals played at CenturyLink Field was last December when they handed the Seahawks a 17-10 loss. That won't happen again unless the Seahawks get caught looking ahead to the 49ers game. The Seahawks don't look ahead. Prediction: Win

Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers

It's a Thanksgiving night, national TV game in the 49ers' shiny new stadium against the hated Seahawks. If San Francisco can't win this one, its time as a championship contender is over. Prediction: Loss

Week 14: at Philadelphia Eagles

This is the toughest part of the season for the Seahawks with back-to-back road games against likely playoff contenders. But the 10 days between games will help and be enough of a cushion to keep Seattle from losing two in a row. Prediction: Win

Week 15: San Francisco 49ers

This is a game that could decide which team wins the NFC West. No way the Seahawks lose to the 49ers twice in three weeks, especially not in front of a rabid full house of 12s. Prediction: Win

Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals probably will be fighting for a playoff spot, and the Seahawks already will be in at 12-2. That difference will be just enough for Arizona to win at home in the same stadium where the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Prediction: Loss

Week 17: St. Louis Rams

For the second consecutive year, the Rams close the regular season in Seattle. And for the second consecutive year, the Seahawks will beat them without much trouble. Prediction: Win

Predicted Record: 13-3

How NFL lockout was good for the game

August, 4, 2011
Recently retired Arizona Cardinals fullback Jason Wright follows his piece on lockout implications for rookies with thoughts on how the lockout was ultimately good for the game.

The National Football League lockout was like a long Midwest winter, the kind that makes people save money for a home in Arizona.

Conflicting court decisions, leverage-minded news releases and false leads on resolution made the NFL skies appear grayer and grayer.

[+] EnlargeDeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell
Evan Habeeb/US PresswireThe leadership of DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell was essential in navigating the NFL lockout.
The lockout’s end has brought the same enthusiasm as the first sunny day of spring. Players are excitedly returning to the game like kids on the first day of Pop Warner practice. Owners are elated that the money will indeed be rolling in by the bucketloads again. Team employees are glad that same money will put food on their families’ tables. And the fans are feasting on a frenzied free-agency period and a quick start to actual football!

In retrospect, the lockout was not all bad. I believe there was a shiny silver lining in its gloomy reign over pro football. I believe the game is now healthier than ever, and a robust framework is in place to prevent another nasty offseason battle from materializing. Now that the lockout has ended, there is an argument that it was “good” in a number of ways.

Valuable lessons

Owners and players have worked successfully together for years in a special employer/employee relationship; special because of the unique position of the players (a superemployee of sorts that is resource, labor and final product combined). Both sides likely thought they were familiar with their counterparts, but the lockout allowed the parties to truly become acquainted.

Owners learned that the players were more strategically and intellectually gifted than expected. They also learned that strong labor leadership could produce player solidarity even in the individualist era of pro football. Likewise, players found that the owners didn’t become wealthy by chance: They DO NOT play when it comes to the balance sheet. Although players will never know whether the league was truly hemorrhaging funds, they did learn that the NFL will do what it takes to ensure that all owners feel comfortable investing in the growth of America’s game.

Call it what you will, but as a businessperson, you must respect it.

More personal in character were the opportunities for growth in individual players. While the NFLPA has always produced an intelligent, business-savvy player board, the average player hasn’t always been so conversant in the particulars of sports business. He certainly is now. Additionally, not knowing when the next paycheck will arrive allowed many players to get a feel for how they will have to live when they enter the “real world” after football. It is my hope that this will prevent the current crop of NFL athletes from following the disastrous financial paths walked by many former players.

Leaders coming of age

From my arm’s-length view, the heads of both the NFL and the NFLPA earned their stripes (and their paychecks) during this lockout. DeMaurice Smith always carried a charismatic presence. It’s why the player board elected him NFLPA chief a few years back even though he was the out-of-nowhere candidate. He turned out to be not only a dynamic speaker but also a visionary strategist.

Although things didn’t go perfectly according to plan, his vision proved resilient, and he was able to successfully steer the players home. His transparency with players was a new development in NFLPA conduct that, in my opinion, kept players from fracturing as the going got tough. His openness certainly converted this longtime union cynic to cautious-but-serious supporter. I am not nearly as familiar with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell but nonetheless give him credit for picking up the mantle of leadership. Getting the owners of 32 teams in 32 unique markets with 32 specific needs to coalesce is no small task.

Add to that the fact that owners are brilliant businessmen, confident in their respective business track records, and the commissioner’s work deserves a standing ovation.

Because these two men were made stronger through the lockout’s rigors, the business state of the game has been likewise strengthened.

Football is now truly a business

Most importantly, the way in which the NFL and the NFLPA interact over the collective bargaining agreement is forever changed. Under the leadership of Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw, collective bargaining got done, in large part, through the conduit of their friendship. It appears they each fully trusted that the other was able and willing to steer his constituents in the best direction for the long-term health of the game. They trusted each other to do this without screwing the other side over in the many dirty details of the negotiation.

Their respective constituencies had faith in their leaders to handle business this way.

As they opted out of the former CBA, owners claimed that the two men had a gentleman’s agreement that the deal would be redone at some point. If true, this is a case in point. This “golf buddy” method of doing business works rather smoothly. It is, however, completely dependent on the friendship of the two men at the top. Because of the nasty rhetoric voiced during the 2011 lockout, the relationship of players and ownership will likely never be like this again. There is now a mildly adversarial tension between the two groups expressed in a healthy distrust of each other. I believe this is a good thing.

I’ve done business with friends many times, and my attention to detail in those partnerships has been, admittedly, sloppier than usual. Because I had established a level of trust with them, I didn’t flesh out all the details. I foolishly figured we could adjust things later if an issue arose. As a result, most of these endeavors came back to bite me in some way. The times I’ve done business with strangers, especially hyperaggressive stereotypical business types, I was certain I’d closed every possible loophole and fully evaluated risk. Heck, I’d even had industry-specific experts sign off on the contract language. As a result, there were no surprises and far less drama as these ventures played out. This is the better way to do business.

The meticulousness that comes with an atmosphere of distrust produces sound business transactions and lasting agreements. I believe this is why there is now a decade-long CBA for which neither side seriously sought an opt-out clause. Both sides have checked every corner of fine print and read every footnote. They are fully aware of their respective “wins” and “losses” and are comfortable with them moving forward. As long as the two groups remain cordial but don’t go back to being “buddy-buddy” labor partners, this is likely the stability we’ll see from here on out. And for everyone who cares about the game of pro football, this is a very good byproduct of a very bad NFL offseason. Here’s to the sunny days that lie ahead.
ESPN's John Clayton says NFL owners and players made "significant progress" Saturday toward finishing a 10-year labor agreement.

This story, attributed to Clayton and Chris Mortensen, has the latest details.

This news affirms the feeling that the sides have been close and that the remaining issues were mainly procedural. It's not yet clear when free agency would open, but Clayton says the league is considering July 30 -- one week from today.

Player's view: Lockout's vulnerable victims

June, 30, 2011
Jason WrightChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesJason Wright is an eight-year veteran of the NFL and was an undrafted free agent out of college.
Arizona Cardinals fullback Jason Wright entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 2004. He played for the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns before signing with Arizona for the 2009 season. His lockout-related thoughts follow:

We are all glad that consistent discussions are happening between the NFL Players Association and league ownership. Especially because it means that resolution is on its way, and resolution is the only news any of us really wants to hear at this point.

By now, we’ve all read far too many stories about secret meetings and court-ordered mediation. It’s so nauseating that if I see another story promoting some obscure piece of information from some "source" I will likely vomit. There’s been so much coverage that even non-sports enthusiasts feel like they can confidently wax philosophic on the situation. The inevitable result is the frustrated cynicism that comes from information overload. Last week, Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston captured the sentiments shared by fans, players, coaches, and even some owners in a witty spoken word. He breathed life back into the story by providing a fresh perspective. Here, I endeavor to do the same.

As the lockout has dragged on through the last few months, a common phrase has come to express the annoyance of the general public with CBA disagreements: "It’s millionaires versus billionaires." This is obviously an oversimplification, but the gist is this: Most of America is struggling financially, and a group of people whose "poorest" make well into six figures should NOT make waves. Again, this argument lacks nuance, but I get it. Everyone gets it. There is, however, a group of guys that everyone can feel for. They are the group that suffers the truest "irreparable harm" from the NFL lockout. They are the undrafted college free agents.

I was still in school at Northwestern when the San Francisco 49ers signed me as an undrafted free agent in 2004. I decided to stay in school and finish my degree instead of participating in the offseason program. I had NO IDEA what a disadvantage I placed myself at from a football standpoint.

I am admittedly not the most talented guy to ever come through the league, but my play was terrible during that first training camp. I couldn't understand why a guy as smart as I considered myself to be was struggling to understand the offense. Well, the other guys had spent a minimum of four months doing nothing but studying the playbook and repeating plays! My play on special teams was probably the worst part, which is ironic considering that's what ended up defining my seven-year career.

The 49ers cut me at the first opportunity. By God's grace, I landed on Atlanta's practice squad under Jim Mora and finally had a chance to catch up. That following offseason, I was able to rapidly improve through the Falcons’ offseason program. I was able to make the necessary gains in physical strength. I became supremely comfortable in the offense. And, probably most importantly, I gained the foundations of being a good special-teams player. I performed very well that next preseason, but still fell prey to the numbers game. The difference was that I had a fair shot that time. And in the long run, I landed in Cleveland with the ability to actually compete at the NFL level and enjoyed four great years with the Browns.

None of it would have been possible without my full participation in an offseason program during my second year. Staying away that first offseason nearly cost me my career (although I’d risk it again to secure my degree). The lockout threatens to put the current undrafted free agents at risk.

Undrafted college free agents are some of the best NFL success stories because they are also the most unlikely. Josh Cribbs, Cleveland’s superstar utility man, started off as a rookie tryout for the Browns. Tony Romo went from "cap-and-clipboard" unknown to the face of the NFL’s most popular franchise. And the Steelers’ James Harrison was cut numerous times before becoming the Defensive MVP.

There are too many others to mention. We love these stories because we can relate. At one point or another, almost all of us have felt forgotten or insignificant. These stories tell us that our small beginnings are not the final word. They say that a combination of hard work, opportunity and providence can improve our standing. They are odds-defying, feel-good narratives that make us feel like there might really be something redeeming in watching hours of sports.

The lockout has lengthened the odds against this newest crop of undrafted free agents. The lack of an organized offseason makes the road toughest for all rookies, in fact. All but the very best will be hard-pressed to make a mark in their first season. For many it will be difficult to even make the team. They won’t get the valuable repetitions of minicamps and organized team activities. They’ll miss valuable classroom time with the coaching staffs. Linemen won’t have time to adjust to the significant speed difference of the NFL line of scrimmage. Skill players will only have a few days to become great on special teams in order to secure jobs.

The drafted guys, at least, know what team they will be on and have had a chance to see what’s in that team’s playbook. The undrafted guys will likely see the playbook only moments before having to physically compete with the best players in the world! The steep hike these guys take to NFL success has become a vertical climb.

So, let’s remember that these guys are innocent victims of this litigious offseason, along with the fans. Let’s also keep our eyes on this year’s crop of college free agents because those that make it may have the best stories yet. The seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against them may very well produce an inspiring story to rival Kurt Warner’s rise from the grocery store to the Super Bowl. I certainly hope they do. We all need the encouragement that no obstacle is too great to alter a destiny. And as life inevitably throws crappy circumstances our way, it’s great to be reminded that the guy who starts out with nothing can sometimes end up with everything.

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson cracked a smile when asked whether he had any regrets about coming out of LSU early, given the NFL labor situation.

Sounds like Peterson has had his eye on the NFL for a while. The video features Peterson saying he patterns himself after Charles Woodson (style of play), Deion Sanders (swagger) and Rod Woodson (tenacity). Think the Cardinals could use that combination?