2:17 AM EDT, July 27, 2011
The NFL lockout’s over, but the labor dispute (can we really call football players “laborers”?) served as a perfect comedic backstory for the epic, near-cinematic drama of violence and tribal rivalry we know as the NFL season.
During the lockout, the owners were angry. The union was angry. And the players? They were bored.
Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones glued himself to the Casey Anthony trial. Defensive back Domonique Foxworth posted deep thoughts about cheese pizza. Lineman Michael Oher got way too into playing cards. Wide receiver Derrick Mason contemplated culinary class. And rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith started signing his increasingly boring tweets with this depressing hashtag: #lockoutlife.
And if we know anything about the NFL, it’s this: When NFL players are bored, ridiculous things happen.
Future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis took up two new careers. He starred alongside “Twilight’s” Taylor Lautner in a “Field of Dreams” spoof (if you haven’t watched it yet, stop reading this now and go to YouTube).
But he also turned criminologist and predicted a prolonged lockout would lead to increased crime.
The amazing thing? He was right. Just not for the reasons he thought. No fewer than 25 players were arrested since the players’ union decertified on March 11, with the AFC North leading the way.
The Cincinnati Bengals managed to produce three arrests July 10-17 alone.
Boredom also led to bickering, and the lockout was full of it. Much of it was (unfairly?) focused on Joe Flacco.
Steelers’ linebacker LaMarr Woodley said the Ravens can’t win a Super Bowl with Flacco at the helm. The Bengals’ Dhani Jones claimed Flacco makes too many bad decisions. And NFL network analyst Jamie Dukes knocked the Ravens’ signal caller for his work ethic.
Did Flacco care? Doubtful.
He was too busy getting married and taking: The. Best. Wedding. Photos. Ever. (Again, if you haven’t seen them, go online now.)
A few weeks later, safety Haruki Nakamura and long snapper Morgan Cox also tied the knot.
So that’s the backstory. It was a sometimes comedic, sometimes testy and sometimes romantic tale. But mostly it was just a story of players being really, really bored. Did we mention Mason’s culinary class?
Now it’s time for the main attraction.
The Ravens are gearing up and shuffling the roster for the season ahead. Already, on Monday, the team informed Mason, tight end Todd Heap, nose tackle Kelly Gregg and running back Willis McGahee that they will be released. The hope is to re-sign some or all of them for less money as the team hopes to make the most of salary-capped dollars.
The Ravens signed lineman Marshal Yanda, their top free agent priority, on Tuesday.
But there is one thing left over from the lockout backstory that should make the main attraction all the more exciting: The increased trash talk from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The incessant chirping between the teams should create great drama. Some players expressed their mutual loathing with words — we’re looking at you, Ray Rice and Ryan Clark — while others, like Ben Roethlisberger, used the tacky method of trying to steal Ravens players’ thunder. In a pathetic copycat move, Roethlisberger got married only weeks after Flacco.
Wait. What was that?
Big Ben? Married?
Hey, every good drama needs some comedic relief.
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