Various sports professionals and economic forecasters have predicted that if the NFL Lockout does not end by July 15th, then owners, players and any businesses dependent on professional football will take a major hit in the wallet.
Here's a look at the potential impact on the Detroit Lions if the lockout drags on past the 15th.
Why the 15th?
The assumption is that NFL owners and their general managers will need at least two weeks before the training camps open to sign their rookies and battle for the available free agents.
For example, the Detroit Lions are supposedly interested in cover cornerback Nnamdi Asomugh who is a former Oakland Raider and an unrestricted free agent. His addition to the Lions' secondary could vault Detroit into the 2011 playoffs.
Unfortunately, the Lions cannot begin talking salary with Asomugh or rookies like Nick Fairley, Titus Young and Mike Leshoure until the new collective bargain agreement (CBA) is approved. The rookie salary structure has been a key debating point during the lockout, so the new CBA could have a positive or negative impact on what Fairley, Young, Leshoure and other Lions rookies receive in salary.
What about Training Camp?
We're approximately three weeks from the start of the Detroit Lions training camp and it runs until the last Sunday in August.
You could argue that NFL players don't need four weeks to prepare for a new season. However, you have to take into account that head coach Jim Schwartz and his staff could not and cannot "talk shop" with the players until the lockout is over and the CBA is in place.
The voluntary camps led by players like quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch are helpful in maintaining unity and developing rapport between the players. They do not provide an opportunity for the coaches to introduce changes in offensive and defensive playbooks.
There is also the financial angle, which frankly drives the thinking of owners and players. The impact of a late-starting and/or shortened training camp has less effect on the Lions than their archrivals, the Chicago Bears.
The Lions camp is held at their training facility in Allen Park, Michigan. Typically, the players stay in a local hotel and LIons management pays for the costs. Hotel expenses for 2010 were estimated at $300,000. A shorter, three-week camp would be a loss to $75,000 to the local hotel. Local eateries that the Lions like to frequent when they are "off duty" would also feel the economic pinch.
The Bear typically get away to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois for their training camp. Approximately $5 million in revenue is generated when Chicago comes to Olivet to prepare for the NFL season.
It is estimated that 60,000 visitors will come to Bourbonnais just to see the Bears. Local eateries and bars believe their income doubles or triples during the typical four-week training camp period. Cancel camp at Olivet and there goes a large chunk of money for this midwestern Illinois town.
What about Preseason football games?
You probably could get a healthy contingent of players to support a reduction in preseason games. Canadian Football League (CFL) teams only play two preseason games before the beginning of their regular season.
The problem is team revenue is tied into these games. NFL teams sell packages where fans have to purchase not only regular season tickets, but also preseason tickets. Each preseason week is worth $200 million dollars in revenue for players and their teams, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.
Football teams typically need two weeks to prepare for their first preseason game. If the Lions camp doesn't open the last weekend of July, then their home preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on August 12th is in jeopardy.
Since NFL players are more concerned with total dollars in revenue, any loss due to the cancelation of a preseason game impacts them and the owners. The good news is since both sides lose if preseason games are not played, then there is a greater incentive for both sides to resolve their differences quickly.
What about the Regular Season?
The magic number is probably 21. In a pinch, three weeks of training camp should be enough time to get an NFL team ready for a 16-game regular season and the playoffs. The deadline for the Detroit Lions would be August 4, 2011, which would probably cause the cancelation of the preseason game with Cincinnati
The sad part of the equation is a further postponement of a week (to August 11) affects two games - the second preseason game and the season opener against the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. At least $300 million of revenue would be lost for each week of the regular season that is cancelled.
Simple Goal - CBA by July 15th
So the goal is simple enough. The NFL owners and the National Football League Players Associaton (NFLPA) must have settled on a CBA by next Friday. Without it, fantasy football enthusiasts may have to consider college fantasy football, fantasy baseball or the CFL.