Now it’s ‘we’ time in the NFL

As of Thursday night’s scintillating opener, another NFL season is upon us, seven long months since a meaningful snap was last taken.

I have always referred to football’s long offseason as “me” time, when players seek to get the best they can get for themselves, with the interests of the team being secondary. We have now finally reached “we” time, when teams galvanize together in the ultimate team sport, a sport where the absolute best players in the game are on the sidelines for at least half of it.

And what an offseason of “me” time it was. It included:

- Annual contractual gripings by regulars such as Anquan Boldin and Chad Ochocinco.

- Massive contract extensions for players who used the strong leverage of impending free agency (Nnamdi Asomugha, Jordan Gross).

- Unrestricted free-agent deals that set new standards of pay for defensive linemen (Albert Haynesworth), linebackers (Bart Scott) and centers (Jason Brown).

- Franchise players who leveraged their status into megadeals (Matt Cassel, Terrell Suggs).

- Traded players who complained their way into better situations (Jay Cutler, Jason Peters).

- This year’s poster child for what’s wrong with rookie compensation, Matthew Stafford, now the NFL’s highest-paid player in terms of guaranteed money at $41.7 million.

Perhaps the two most talked about players in the 2009 NFL offseason were not members of any NFL team until a couple weeks ago. Michael Vick has resurfaced with the Eagles, a team that presented him with the best option for redemption, as his other choices for employment would not have set him up well for the future. And, of course, my old friend Brett Lorenzo Favre finally agreed to a date with the Vikings, who had been asking him out for more than a year.

Note on Favre: I’m amazed at how many people ask why Favre made the Vikings wait, why he couldn’t make up his mind, why he acts the way he does, etc. The answer is very simple: Because he can. Had the Vikings threatened to pull the plug or lower the offer at any time, we may have seen different behavior from Brett.

And, of course, what would an NFL offseason be without bad behavior?

Donte Stallworth gave us a chilling reminder of how a blink of an eye can change a career and, much more tragically, a life.

Plaxico Burress gave up his self-delusion that he would get another large contract and avoid jail time and finally accepted reality and took the plea bargain for his crime.

Brandon Marshall was suspended for conduct detrimental to the Broncos due to his scripted insubordination.

Now, however, “me” season is over, and as we look into the crystal ball for the 2009 season, it’s important to remember the adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” There will be some constants in 2009, such as:

- The teams that have been built for sustained success -- Giants, Packers, Eagles, Patriots, Colts, Chargers, Steelers, Titans, Ravens, etc. -- will likely continue to have success.

- The teams drafting high in the 2009 NFL Draft -- due to a poor record in 2008 -- will likely have the top choices in the 2010 draft, due to a poor record in 2009.

- Wide receiver divas such as Terrell Owens, Marshall, Ochocinco, Boldin and others will have production on the field but cause headaches for their teams off it. Memo to Denver: Throwing money at Marshall will not solve the problem. Step away from the bargaining table now!

- A month from now, there will be three or four teams talking about 2010 already. So much for 2009.

- Brett Favre will give weekly press conferences where he’ll say things like, “I’m not saying....” which means he is saying, “I don’t care about records....” and “This will be my last year...” And people will believe him.

- Teams will be very hesitant to extend contracts this season (save for a record-setting deal to come soon for DeMarcus Ware) due to, in some cases, cash flow issues, but in most cases because of the great uncertainty about a future that appears to include no salary cap in 2010 and potentially no football in 2011.

- Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith will do more negotiating in the media than with each other about a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Only a deadline -- perhaps March 1 -- will spur action.

- The combative relationship between the NFL and cable companies over carriage of NFL Network will continue, with the league holding to its price and insistence on not being placed on a sports tier.

- The tweeting issue will not go away. The league has covered the problem of tweeting immediately before and after games, but the individualistic nature of tweeting at times will outweigh the team-first mentality that coaches, management and the league desire. We have not seen the last of the tweaking of the tweeting rules.

- The blackout rule will be adjusted, although not enough to please teams and fans.

- Flatline coaches such as Andy Reid and Bill Belichick will frustrate fans and media with their platitude answers but will continue to win.

- Emotional and fiery coaches such as Tom Cable and Mike Singletary will delight fans and media with their outbursts as their teams will have similar mood swings.

- Richard Seymour will play for the Raiders and Michael Crabtree will sign with the 49ers; the financial consequences are too severe for them not to.

And, of course, the National Football Post will be publishing every day to bring you the best news, information, insight and opinion available about the sport we love. Enjoy the games and enjoy the NFP.

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