"It is a distraction," head coach Doug Plank said. "Everyone wants to have an answer and know what the final result is going to be. But we don't. You just have to trust in your leaders, both on the owners' side and the players' side, that reasonableness and fairness [will prevail]."
Player salary, housing and other issues top the list of problems. The starting quarterback currently earns $1,675 per game, but everyone else gets $400. Players who are traded in midseason often must pay the travel costs associated with getting from one team to the next.
Neither side has covered itself in glory during the dispute, which basically has been brewing since the league resumed play following the cancellation of the 2009 season. A player strike in Week 1 forced Cleveland and Pittsburgh to play with replacement players. Then a strike by Cleveland players caused the first-ever forfeit of a game on June 8. That was countered by an open letter to fans by AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz on Tuesday, which the players union matched with its own lengthy response shortly thereafter.
Ever see two sides get into an email or Twitter war? That's what this feels like.
"It's hard," Soul wide receiver Donovan Morgan said disgustedly. "For the guys that don't have names in this league, they're going to be looking for jobs. Guys are going to be out of jobs if a lockout happens. That's one of the things [weighing] on a lot of these young guys. They're going to be wondering whether they're going to have a job next week."
The NFL Network got spooked by all of the unrest and is no longer broadcasting games live on Friday evenings as it had done over the first 13 weeks. Instead, it'll show a game Saturday on tape delay. Hard to blame them.
The timing of a potential stoppage is lousy for the Soul, which controls the American Conference with a 10-3 record and is favored at least to reach the ArenaBowl championship game. Saturday's game at Jacksonville is safe (for now), but the team is slated to get home around noon on Sunday. The players then could be forced out of their team-managed apartments by 3 p.m. as replacement players are brought in.
"Right now, you can only worry about the things you can control," quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said. "I'm here to play football; a lot of these guys are. We're here for the right reasons. I just wish the union and the league can get on the same page so that we can keep playing football." n
Contact Ed Barkowitz at email@example.com.