Angelo can't fathom a season without football
Angelo can't fathom a season without football
With possible lockout looming, Bears GM 'sorry when things get to this point — for the game'
The tone of Bears general manager Jerry Angelo's voice lowered to a somber pitch when the subject of the looming NFL lockout arose.
"We've got a great game and I'm sorry when things get to this point — for the game," Angelo said. "Not for me. Not for the players. Not for the owners. For the game.
"This game is special. It brings people together. It galvanizes cities. And during the tough times in this economy … I'm not saying sports is the elixir, but it kind of helps people just have some fun in tough times."
Nothing has been too amusing about the negotiation process up until this point. The NFL and its players' union will meet before a federal mediator Monday for the fourth consecutive day with hopes of inching closer to a new collective bargaining agreement.
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The current labor deal expires at the end of the day March 3, and it is believed the owners intend to lock the players out afterward. Such a lockout could jeopardize the 2011 season.
The toughest obstacle separating the players and owners is how to divide approximately $9 billion in annual revenue.
If Angelo and the rest of the Bears staff didn't understand the magnitude of the issue before, they fully comprehended the possible ramifications after team President Ted Phillips briefed front office members and coaches on the matter two weeks ago. Phillips explained the rules and regulations in case of a lockout, reinforcing how there could be no interaction with the players in such a scenario.
Angelo couldn't fathom a season without football.
"This game has been everything to me, personally," Angelo said. "I love this game. I've done everything I've could to respect the game, to make it better, like you want to do with anything you're a part of in your life.
"That's the part that's bothersome. It's not about people losing jobs. It's not about anything other than we're in an entertainment world. It's a business. I know it's a big pie. How that pie is distributed, people will determine that. But I'm more concerned with our game and that it doesn't get tainted."
Angelo and the Bears are in a holding pattern until the labor situation is resolved, although they'll follow the usual protocol in dissecting prospects at this week's NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. But it is difficult to project how the team will proceed in free agency without a new collective bargaining agreement in place.
"All I know is free agency will be like nothing ever before and possibly ever again," Angelo said. "Approximately 500 players are going to become available at some point. Obviously, that was because players were frozen last year and now you have two classes coming together."
The Bears were active in free agency last season, signing All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers along with running back Chester Taylor and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. For those who continue to say Angelo has a tendency to throw away draft picks, he explained how the two first-rounders surrendered in the Jay Cutler deal gave the Bears the flexibility to sign Peppers to a six-year, $91.5 million contract.
"You have to make determination like we did when we drafted for Jay," Angelo said. "And part of why we did that was because of free agency. Then with free agency, we felt you could take on that risk given the rewards based on that position because now that money that would have been allocated for those No. 1 draft picks now get reallocated where? In free agency. And then you're able to do other things there. So, it all ties in."
This year, Angelo hopes to keep some of the 14 Bears set to be unrestricted free agents, a group that includes center Olin Kreutz, nose tackle Anthony Adams and safety Danieal Manning. And he would like to at least explore the free-agent market to fill needs on the offensive and defensive line and, perhaps, wide receiver. But Angelo can't quantify how many players the Bears intend to sign.
"That's all a product of the salary cap," he said. "And saying that, the cap has to be determined, so nobody can answer that. That's why you're seeing teams slowly move. Until we know where it stands, it's hard to budget going forward. So until this all gets resolved, we won't know."
Angelo simply hopes there is a resolution soon. The fact that the two sides agreed to mediation was a step in the right direction.
"I'm hopeful because everybody stands to gain, like everybody stands to lose," Angelo said. "There's no winner or loser in this."