Center Jeff Faine, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' designated union representative, thinks the NFL's impending lockout doesn't necessarily have to happen and things could end amicably.
"I'm optimistic. I'm very optimistic," Faine said today. "Both sides are obviously going to have to work together to find some even ground. Hopefully both sides will concede a little bit so we can get something done and we can keep football going."
The current collective bargaining agreement expires on March 4, after which owners are expected to initiate a lockout of the players, essentially bringing the NFL to a standstill until a new labor agreement can be negotiated.
It's a process that involves literally billions of dollars and complex issues that range from the prospect of an 18-game season to a rookie wage scale. Owners are adamant about taking a bigger share of the NFL's huge pie. They wish to lower the players' salaries from the current 59 percent to a number they deem acceptable. Players continue to resist.
But the players on a team as young as the Bucs probably lack a grasp of these issues or the gravity of the situation. With solidarity a major factor for the players in this fight, it's up to players like Faine to impress the importance of it all upon the youngsters.
"For a lot of these guys, they don't know," Faine said. "It's a learning process for them and it's still a learning process for me, too. There's a lot of issues and we're going to have to deal with them. It's going to be an interesting offseason. That's for sure.
"And it's going to be a busy one."