We've reached a point where little about this prolonged lockout is surprising. In terms of rhetoric, legal twists and the amount of time any particular court takes with any particular decision, it's clear that this situation can take many directions and is anything but predictable.
However, I do feel comfortable making one proclamation: Regardless of any court decision, the NFL is not closing up shop, shutting its doors or dissolving.
The notion has been floated around and even gained some steam, but it's an eventuality I cannot foresee under any circumstances. The people I've talked to around the league don't see it either.
Is this working out?
This is a business that generates roughly $10 billion in revenue, with 32 franchises that, by and large, are prospering to some degree. The business of football is an arena of uber-competition, on and off the field. Teams fight daily not only for wins, but to hire the brightest and best players, coaches, trainers, executives, marketing and public relations staffs, and so on.
I do not, for one minute, believe that should the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals uphold Judge Susan Richard Nelson's decision on the lockout injunction, the 32 owners would opt to close up shop. That would seem extreme in light of the fact, again, that we're arguing over how to split a $10 billion pie. The public relations hit alone would be massive.
I understand that the league wants to think through and explore all options in this unprecedented labor situation, but I can't accept this as more than just a leverage play over the NFL Players Association.
So, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went on "PFT Live" last week and was asked about the league potentially shutting down based on certain outcomes in court, I wasn't all that surprised to hear the response.
"The only thing I'm going to say in regards to any of these rumors -- there's all kinds of reports -- is that we're considering a variety of different alternatives based on the court decisions," Goodell said. "We'll have to do that, and we're prepared to do that, and we're going through that process."
Legally, it's safe ground. No one wants to tip their hand. The possibility of the league taking such drastic action could have a chilling effect on the players.
But as a viable reality in the face of any court decision, no matter how disadvantageous, I don't see it.