While there is optimism that a labor deal between owners and the NFLPA could be reached by the end of the week, it’s no slam dunk. Things could get derailed and, as it has become affectionately known, we could have football Armageddon.
There are a lot of ways to view the aftermath if things break down, but I decided to take a look at something that would touch a lot of us — from a football perspective. A lot of great players — great players — have maybe one more year left to offer us and their teams. If there is no football this season, they could become memories unable to control their exits from a game they’ve given so much to.
While we’re all under the assumption that we’ve seen the last of quarterback Brett Favre, there could be a few more certain Pro Football Hall of Famers whose careers could potentially come to a close if there is no football. Just take a look at this list and see what I mean (all ages are current):
Ray Lewis, LB, 35 years old
When we think of leadership, he is the guy who almost always comes to mind. The consummate pro can still play at a high level and get his teammates to do the same. He’s played 15 seasons, but seems like he could play two or three more. He’s sipped enough football Ambrosia to seemingly stay forever young. We know that age is an undefeated opponent, though, one that even Lewis can’t take down to the ground.
In case this is it: Lewis had 139 tackles in the regular season, and came up with nine more in a season-ending playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, 31
He’s played 10 seasons, which is a lifetime and then some for a running back. Tomlinson showed no worse for the wear last season, his first with the Jets after nine mostly incredible seasons with the Chargers. L.T. started 13 games, rushed for 914 yards and had 52 receptions for 368 yards. If there is a season, he’ll probably have a reduced role to Shonn Greene. If there’s not, there’s no telling if the Jets would want him back. He’d be 33 by the time the 2012 season started.
In case this is it: Tomlinson had a season-low nine carries for 16 yards in the AFC title game loss to Pittsburgh.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, 35
Arguably the best, and one of the most durable tight ends ever, Gonzalez has already said he’s playing one more season. The 11-time Pro Bowl selection has mentioned “retirement” a few dozen times, so he’s already considered it. If there were no football, Gonzalez might hang up his cleats. He’s played 14 seasons and remains — even without a deep playoff run — the gold standard for the position.
In case this is it: Gonzalez finished with 70 catches and six touchdowns, and was a huge part of Atlanta’s potent offense — except in the season-ending playoff loss to Green Bay. Gonzalez had one catch for seven yards.
Charles Woodson, CB, 34
Woodson — a seven-time Pro Bowl selection — is among the most versatile and impactful defenders in recent NFL history. One of the best moments of his career came when he wasn’t on the field, though. After suffering a broken collarbone in the Packers’ Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh, he delivered an emotional speech that stirred injury-riddled Green Bay to victory. He said right away he’d return for one more season, but if there is no season …
In case this is it: In defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ scheme, Woodson has lined up at just about every position with the exception of defensive line. He also groomed upstarts Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. He had career highs with 92 tackles and five forced fumbles to go with his two interceptions this past season.
Randy Moss, WR, 34
Moss is a six-time Pro Bowl selection who was once considered the standard for all wide outs — especially deep threats. Last season’s barnstorming tour clearly showed he’s nearing the end of his career. New England, Minnesota and Tennessee, all in need of a deep-threat, couldn’t find much use for him. Even if there is a season in 2011, there is no guarantee that he’ll play, possibly because he might not want to. He still has something to offer, but if there’s no ball next season, he might not have much left in the tank come 2012.
In case this is it: Moss had 28 receptions — by far a career low — and five touchdowns in 2010. After three consecutive games without a catch, Moss ended his season with the Titans with one grab for 18 yards.
Terrell Owens, WR, 37
Owens showed that he can still play last season, regardless of his age. His caretaking of his body is part of the reason he can continue to deliver. The issue with Owens isn’t his production. The perception of Owens is not good and that perception has been around for years. It might be hard for him to find work, even if he wants it. That is a shame. T.O. was a six-time Pro Bowl pick and has sick career numbers that, on merit, should get him into the Hall of Fame. Getting into Canton is more than about numbers, though.
In case this is it: T.O. had 72 catches and nine touchdowns for the woeful Bengals. In his final game with them in Week 14: One catch, 22 yards