Labour strife not overshadowing NFL opener

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:18 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- If the National Football League is looking for a motto for 2010 we offer one free of charge -- Enjoy It While You Can.

Following this season the dark clouds and ominous rumblings of a labour strife and a potential lockout for 2011 loom in the distance.

When once asked about the possibility of a lockout by the owners in 2011 the NFL Players Association's executive director DeMaurice Smith responded: "On a scale of one to 10, it's a 14."

But save all the doom and gloom for another day.

Such sabre rattling, posturing and doomsday scenarios aside, the NFL has no reason to doubt that the excitement and drama that unfolded throughout the 2009 season and culminated with the dramatic victory by New Orleans in last year's Super Bowl won't repeat this campaign.

The opening game between the Saints and the Minnesota Vikings has yet to take place and already there are a number of interesting story lines developing.

There are the Saints themselves and whether the gifted offensive team can repeat, the return of Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre for one last (?) season, the Rex Ryan led New York Jets, who have already been crowned the champs by the New York media, the high profile trade of veteran Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb to their divisional rival the Washington Redskins, the Ben Roethlisberger mess in Pittsburgh etc., etc.

You could go on and on.

One of the pluses to look forward to is that the old "On any given Sunday" line about parity may be as true as ever.

This does not mean that dynasties don't exist as there still remains plenty of cream at the top.

It's just that the rot at the bottom of the barrel doesn't seem to be as pronounced as it has the past few seasons when the play of perennial doormats such as the Detroit Lions, the Cleveland Browns and the St. Louis Rams was truly abysmal and borderline embarrassing.

Bottom dwellers

Last season the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Lions and the Rams won 4-3-2-1 games, respectively, and we don't think we're going out on any kind of a limb here to suggest that all four teams will top those win totals easily. Hey, they're still bad teams but they won't stink to the same degree.

Washington also won just four games in '09 but with McNabb and others and new head coach Mike Shanahan they are now being perceived as a possible playoff contender.

Even the hapless Raiders in Oakland, an organization that has been viewed to be dysfunctional for years if not decades, even appears to be turning in a positive direction.

As for who will get to the dance at Cowboys Stadium, Feb. 6, there are many possibilities. The AFC has the Jets, the Baltimore Ravens, the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers -- the pre-season division winners. And you can never discount the New England Patriots.

In the NFC there's the Vikings, Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and the Saints.

As for the Saints, they sort of came out of nowhere. Thought to be a team on the fringes of respectability by most pundits at the start of the 2009 season, they defied all odds and beat back a history of failure bordering on clownishness.

No easy task

Repeating, though, won't be easy.

Just ask Mickey Loomis, the Saints general manager.

At a recent gathering, Loomis ticked off the reasons his team WON'T repeat.

"The odds are against us," he started off, noting that in NFL history, just seven teams have repeated as champs.

There were other potential road blocks, he said.

"Can we handle success or will we get fat and lazy?" Loomis said, adding that the "disease of me", or selfishness could raise its ugly head. They also have to battle against complacency and believing they are better than they are with everybody "telling us how great we are."

He also said his club will have to play better than it did in 2009 as the Saints will not be able to sneak up on any team and that all opponents will be gunning for them.

"And, finally, maybe we're not good enough," Loomis said.

Loomis went on to state how his team could overcome such obstacles but the point is that it's a hard slog to a Super Bowl triumph.

Just ask Peyton Manning and the Colts.

The road to Cowboys Stadium will be a long and grueling one but in the end we're going with a Packers-Ravens matchup.

Like we said, enjoy it while you can.


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