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Archie Manning: No NFL Regular Season Games Will Be Missed in 2011

Archie ManningArchie Manning

Audio: Saints legend on NFL lockout, his son Peyton’s  recent neck surgery, college football corruption and more on WGSO, 990am’s Three Tailgaters with Ed Daniels and Ken Trahan:


NEW ORLEANS - While NFL players continue to be locked out of team facilities since March 12, fans are starting to either get mad at the perceived greed of billionaires and millionaires or become greatly concerned about the 2011 season.

Speaking on "The Three Tailgaters" radio show (WGSO, 990am New Orleans) on which he appears 30 Saturday mornings during each year, Archie Manning, who played in the league from 1971-1984 and has a pair of Super Bowl champion sons in the league now, said that fans will ultimately get what they want, and not something less like the reported 8-game regular season plan floated this week.

"We'll play football. I really don't think they're going to miss any games. It may be a week or two late," Manning said. "I don't really know what's going on there. I keep saying simply that they can't screw this up, owners, players. We've got to have a football season. I think good sense will prevail here."

On April 25, Federal District Court judge Susan Nelson granted the players an injunction, blocking the NFL from imposing its lockout but just four nights later, that changed.

The 8th Circuit U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the owners on April 29, reinstituting the lockout. The court urged both sides to try to work out their issues or to face the court's ruling or wrath, depending on your point of view. Manning feels the owners have an advantage in the courts and in practice.

"With regard to the 8th Circuit, I really don't think it's going to be a factor. It's probably going to go management's way. At the end of the day, they've (players and owner) got to get back together, sit down and work it out," Manning said.

In 1982, NFL players went on strike for 57 days from September 20 through November 16, canceling seven regular season games as the owners and players fought over the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Manning was part of that work stoppage as a player.

"There is so much more money involved now that the players make than in 1982. Of course, the difference then is that it was not a lockout. We were on strike.

1982 was kind of eventful for me I got traded by the Saints to Houston a few days before the strike. In that one, we did sit out for seven weeks. That was kind of interesting. People may remember that we had a nine-game season," Manning said.

After the owners agreed to an improved salary benefit package for players, there was labor peace until 1987. Then came a bitter dispute and another player strike.

The league decided to hire replacement players while the regular players struck. Each team played three replacement player games. By that time, Manning had retired as a player and joined the New Orleans Saints Radio Network.

"Of course, I was an announcer in 1987. Everybody remembers that with the replacement players. That was tough. Some guys crossed the line. That helped break the strike.

We've never had a lockout before. I think it's unfortunate. I think if they can get back and play and have two or three weeks of training camp, a preseason game, a scrimmage or something like that and start playing games, people won't know the difference," Manning said.

With many teams holding informal, regular workouts and most players having personal trainers, conditioning is not a major issue with no Organized Team Activities (OTA's) going on, according to Manning.

"One thing about players in this day and age, they are going to be in shape. Maybe it's an advantage to the Saints to have a lot of guys together and all of that. All in all, guys are going to be in shape. That's what they do in this era of football."

Like many, Manning does not feel like four preseason games are necessary, especially the fourth and final game and the way teams approach it in today's game.

"It's kind of embarrassing. It's really kind of embarrassing to the league to have that kind of situation with media covering that event, fans who played full price to come and try to enjoy the game. Most or many of them probably try to give their tickets away. It's too many preseason games," Manning said.

While the preseason as too long, Manning also feels the time spent working out as teams in the offseason may be a bit inflated as well.

"They don't need as much offseason practice as they have been going through. They don't need to be structured in an all-season program beginning March 15 that goes through June 15. They don't need three mini-camps for a new team, all the OTA's and so forth. You need some.

Most of the teams are ready to play a game on week into preseason, except for a few rookies. They do so much in the offseason. They may learn a few lessons from this (the lockout)," Manning said.

In the final analysis, Manning, who has always handled himself with class and dignity, refuses to blast either side of the current labor dispute.

"I try to not take sides. You can put yourself in a player's position. I don't know how many of us can put ourselves in an owner's position.

I'll say this. It is different for management to try to take something back in negotiations. It doesn't happen much. The debt with a lot of the owners with their stadiums, that was their choice, what they wanted to do.

I kind of see both sides of it. I think there's plenty of money out there to sit down and to work something out and everybody can come away from this thing happy," said Manning.

While the disputes between owners and players were frequent in between 1968 and 1987, that has not been the case of late.

"We've been spoiled with 23 years of labor peace. We really have been spoiled with labor peace. In 1974, we had 'no freedom, no football.' That was a big deal, the first big work stoppage," Manning said. "There were 13 'freedom' demands."

Back then, at Northwestern's Dyce Stadium in Evanston, Illinois, Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Alan Page was dressed in a T-shirt stamped with the message "no freedom, no football," while marching in a picket line. It captured the essence of the players' feelings.

The players went on strike from July 1 through August 10 extending into the early preseason.

Prior to 1974, there was a players strike in July of 1970 which lasted just two days. The players returned when the owners threatened to cancel the entire season and the two sides agreed to a four-year deal. There was no impact on the season.

On July 3 of 1968, NFL players voted to strike related to feeling slighted with relation to paychecks and pensions. The owners answered by locking out the players. The lockout ended after 11 days with no affect on the upcoming season.

As I have said all along, I expect the current impasse to end in time for the 2011 regular season. It may run into training camp, which will not bother many veteran players. It could cut into the preseason, which would bother many veteran players.

Ultimately, both sides have too much to lose to allow it to extend into the regular seasons. Wives may push their husbands back to work to pay for the expensive homes, cars, children's educations and lavish lifestyles. Owners do not want to lose the revenue generated by 20 games.

As Manning suggests, common sense and calmer heads will prevail but not before making football fans sweat it out while experiencing high anxiety.

You can listen to the "Three Tailgaters Show" Saturday mornings from 10-noon with Ed Daniels, Archie Manning and Ken Trahan on WGSO, 990 AM, WGSO.com and through SportsNola.com.


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