Commentary

The Patriots and the lockout

What to know about the NFL lockout and how it affects New England

Updated: March 12, 2011, 8:26 AM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

From the perspective of New England Patriots players, Friday's breakdown in labor talks was a disappointment.

"I think everybody pretty much feels the same way, we just want to go back to work," cornerback Kyle Arrington said. "Hopefully this thing resolves itself -- the sooner the better."

That might be wishful thinking, as the focus now turns to the courtroom, where Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was one of 10 players to file suit against the NFL in U.S. District Court, seeking class-action status, as well as a request for an injunction that would block a lockout.

Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins, who could attempt to wage his own legal battle to earn unrestricted free agent status after six years in New England, also was part of the suit.

[+] EnlargeRoger Goodell
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesAfter much anticipation, Friday's NFL labor talks ended without a deal.

Those were two of the notable Patriots twists to Friday's turn of events, which had been expected if the NFL Players Association ultimately filed paperwork to decertify, which happened at 5 p.m. ET. At midnight, the league began a lockout.

Arrington said the message delivered to all players from DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, was that owners had opted out of the collective bargaining agreement, yet wouldn't show players their financial books detailing why the deal was bad for them.

"If you're losing money, show us that, and we're happy to negotiate," Arrington relayed.

As for where things go from here for the Patriots, and other teams for that matter, there is more uncertainty than answers. One major question that hangs in the air: When does free agency begin?

At the end of the season, Patriots coach Bill Belichick noted that one of the few guarantees of the offseason is that the NFL draft will still take place April 28-30, although it's possible that could be challenged in court, as well.

Regardless, Belichick has spent time in Florida this week on his annual college scouting trip. One of his stops was at the University of Miami, where he watched film with defensive players Allen Bailey, Brandon Harris, Colin McCarthy, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Ryan Hill, and was planning to attend the school's Pro Day on Thursday before it was postponed because of rain.

Meanwhile, players already on the Patriots' roster followed the labor news closely, especially as the 5 p.m. ET hour approached Friday and the union officially filed its paperwork to decertify.

"Of course you're concerned, it's your livelihood," second-year defensive lineman Kyle Love said.

Teams can't sign, cut or trade players, or interact with them during the lockout. Players also won't be paid workout bonuses or other money due to them in the offseason, while coaches could also have their pay cut. Earlier this month, Patriots players talked about saving their money because of the possibility they wouldn't have any income.

"You try to conserve your money, your spending and things like that, and try to wait it out," linebacker Jerod Mayo said.

One other Patriots wrinkle to monitor as the labor battle heads to the courtroom is the status of Mankins, the two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard who has been in a contract standoff with the team since last year.

Mankins had been assigned the franchise tag last month, and some in the NFL Players Association believe he'd have a strong legal case to earn free agency during the lockout. Mankins could potentially argue that he couldn't be restricted by the franchise tag while also being locked out by owners.

Efforts to reach Mankins and his agent, Frank Bauer, were unsuccessful.

At the NFL combine last month, Bauer addressed some of the considerations of Mankins signing his franchise-tag tender. Part of the reason Mankins elected not to sign the tender was so he wasn't contractually bound to the team in the event of a lockout.

"There are a lot of variables and a lot of issues out there," Bauer said at the time. "At some point in time, maybe there aren't tags anymore in a new CBA. Maybe there becomes a fight over this."

As he's shown on the field, Mankins seldom shies away from a fight. So now, in a labor battle between owners and players that heads to the courtroom, Mankins' status especially bears watching from a Patriots perspective.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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