Did You Enjoy the NFL “Offseason?”

Wow, that was fast!

The NFL's "offseason" — all 14 days of it — ended yesterday, when the annual combine, held at its traditional venue of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, began, this year to last eight days, its longest ever.

(On occasion, unscrupulous players have been accused of "sandbagging" at the combine: in 1982 — the very first year of the combine's existence — USC running back Marcus Allen ran a highly suspect 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which scared off the Patriots and Colts, both 2-14 in 1981, from drafting him. In fact, Allen ultimately fell all the way down to the tenth overall pick, where he was happily snapped up by the Raiders — and the rest, as they say, is history, as Allen, among other things, earned a Super Bowl ring in 1983 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame two decades later.)

This will be followed by the beginning of the "new league year" on March 13 at 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time (Daylight Saving Time will begin at 2:00 AM local time on March 10, except in Arizona and Hawaii, which do not observe DST), although players and/or their agents may meet with the management of any team, including their pre-existing team, beginning on March 11.

The next important date is March 24, the start of the four-day annual spring meeting of the owners in Orlando, Florida, which rather interestingly does not have an NFL franchise despite the fact that Orlando's population is larger than that of Pittsburgh and, of course, Green Bay (Florida clearly deserves a fourth NFL team — and Texas deserves a third team at the absolute least). Topics expected to be hashed out at the meeting include whether or not to change the rules governing what happens if the ball is fumbled into the end zone, and whether or not to re-ban — is that even a word? If "calamoni" is a word, then why not? — the "tush push" (it was outlawed until 2006). Neither change is expected to be approved.

After that comes the climax of spring in the NFL: The NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting — that's the draft, for those of you in Rio Linda, West Palm Beach and Staten Island — this year shortened to two days, April 24 and 25, when in recent years it had been three, with only the first round held on Day 1, the second and third rounds on Day 2, and the fourth through seventh rounds on Day 3.

Next on the agenda is the release of the 2024 regular-season schedule (each team's opponents were determined when the 2023 regular season ended), tentatively slated for May 9.

The last "key date" in the "spring" is June 1, and can have a bewildering array of salary cap implications for various teams.

Friday marks the 31st anniversary of free agency in the NFL, sticking the league with a "lemon" to which it responded by serving "lemonade" in the form of drawing up the aforementioned spring calendar, with all of the events shown on the house organ they created, NFL Network, putting that channel (Channel 180 on most of the cable networks) on the map on a par with ESPN — and without the political biases that many accuse ESPN of having.

And if the NFL does choose to pursue holding the Super Bowl on the Presidents' Day weekend — so as to make "Super Bowl Monday" a federal holiday — its "offseason" will become even shorter.

Once upon a time, TV stations went off the air during late-night hours, and 6:00 AM was treated as the start of the "broadcast day," with the national anthem being played both before and after the station went off the air, and the familiar test pattern, which featured an Indian head at the top of the screen originally, replaced circa 1980 by a series of brightly-colored vertical bars, could be seen briefly before the station began its new broadcast day.

But since then, infomercials have filled in this gap completely — just as the NFL is one tiny step away from filling in their gap completely.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site