Keys to the game: Avoiding labor panic

The long-running labor dispute between the NFL and its players does not lend itself to definitive analysis in the moment. That's frustrating for fans, media and players accustomed to instant replays, hurry-up offenses and two-minute warnings.

Three things I'm keeping in mind as the process continues:

  • The major economic issues are settled. Prominent agent and NFL Players Association insider Tom Condon said so Thursday. Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners have said so as well. The relevant parties agree the sides have made tremendous progress toward an agreement. There's no credible evidence suggesting the sides are far apart. This is not a disaster.

  • See the forest for the trees. Or, as I've put it a few times, this labor situation is best viewed from 3,000 feet than from the ground. Following developments too closely produces a distorted picture. Following the play-by-play via Twitter and television was exhilarating Thursday. Patching together fragments of information to produce a meaningful picture wasn't always easy or even possible. History discourages overreaction. Remember when owners suffered that supposedly pivotal setback in a Minnesota courtroom? How pivotal was it in the end? Not pivotal at all. There's no reason to celebrate or lose hope with every yard gained or lost.

  • Process matters. Some fans I heard from Thursday night were ticked off at players for not immediately voting on the owners' agreement. Their outrage was understandable, but premature. For legal reasons, owners had called the union's decertification a sham. The players must demonstrate otherwise, also for legal reasons. If players magically reassembled as a union overnight, their decertification would appear to have been more like a sham. By proceeding deliberately and emphasizing process, players demonstrate otherwise. Some players also reacted emotionally and harshly to the owners' agreement, questioning the NFL's tactics. Their outrage was understandable, but ultimately not pivotal. Progress toward an agreement stands.

The NFLPA issued a statement Friday saying it wouldn't make additional comments Friday out of respect for the Kraft family following the death of Myra Kraft, wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. That statement aligns with the deliberate approach players have embraced. It doesn't justify panic.