Bill Polian On The Current NFL CBA Negotiations “The Odds Of Endangering The Super Bowl Are Almost Non-Existent.”

January 14, 2011 – 7:45 am by Steven Cuce

The discussion of a potential 18-game schedule has angered many NFL players during the impending labor negotiations, but if there’s one team that would know a thing or two about having to go through a season experiencing a flurry of unfortunate injuries it’s the Indianapolis Colts. Over the past few seasons the Colts have cruised through the AFC South even flirting with the ability to go for the perfect record held by the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The 2010 season was a totally different story for Indianapolis Colts being the beneficiaries of an enormous amount of injuries to key players such as Austin Collie, Bob Sanders, Clint Session, Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez. Those are just to name a few.

Through all the injury troubles the Colts fought and chipped their way to another AFC South title winning their last four games to claim the division crown. The Colts earned the #3 seed in the 2010 playoffs. In last Saturday’s Wild Card matchup, the New York Jets were able to escape from Indy with a last second field goal, winning 17-16.

Overall the Indianapolis Colts and their president, Bill Polian, have dubbed this season as their most gratifying. The sting of not continuing into the second round of the playoffs is something that the organization hasn’t been used to over the last few years. Given the impending labor negotiations this may be the last game the Colts will remember for a very long time.

Bill Polian joined 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis with JMV to discuss passing on some of his responsibilities to his son Chris, all teams having to have someone separately “salary cap manage” the salary cap for the 2011 season while the GM handles the potential labor dispute, what was the level of disappointment after losing Saturday’s Wild Card game to the New York Jets, his thoughts on how Jim Caldwell did coaching this team for the last 2 seasons, how tough was the 2010-11 season with all the injuries, how optimistic and hopeful he is for business as usual next year in the NFL and his thoughts on a possible-yet-likely 18-game season.

Are you stepping away from being involved in the normal day-to-day operations operations due the fact their you’re passing on responsibilities to your son Chris?

“Oh yeah I’m going to be involved as I always have been, but my focus is going to turn toward labor much more in depth in terms of developing a strategy for the way forward with a extensively new labor agreement whenever that comes. In terms of football as strongly as ever personnel and maybe even expanding that a little bit getting away from day-to-day administration, which Chris is going to take over salary cap management, which will give me more time into strategy and football.”

Given that there’s no salary cap are all teams going  to have someone “salary cap manage” the cap for the 2011 season while the GM handles the potential labor dispute?

“Yeah I think…well for not only 2011, but beyond. There’s lots of ways that this could end up going, not the least of which would  be a new labor agreement, which would bring with it all kinds of new rules and regulations and things of that nature. It affects short term strategy, it affects long term strategy. There will likely be some court involvement if there is a lockout, so all of those things become three and four front issues that you gotta deal with. I would think that all club presidents are doing that and if you got other stuff on your plate like the preseason schedule and salary cap management and budget management stuff like that it’s pretty hard to do. Chris is more than capable of doing that and so I’m going to turn it over to him and I’m going to concentrate on the areas where I could bring some expertise especially from the perspective of having long experience with these kind of things.”

What was the level of disappointment after losing Saturday’s Wild Card game to the New York Jets compared to other seasons where the Colts have lost in the playoffs?

“Well you know every loss hurts. I think the longer you’re around the more losing feels bad as opposed to winning feeling good. Every loss hurts. I don’t rank them, they just are loses. It takes awhile to get over them. The good lord has a way of showing what’s important and what’s not important. No sooner do we think that awful stuff has happened by losing a football game, then the issues surfaces in Arizona and you recognize “Hey it’s just a football game,”…so if you look at it in the larger scheme of things it’s not that important for one. Two, I think the coverage of the kickoff you would have to say everything, all things considered this team overachieved. I said that at the end of the regular season that there’s no level of disappointment. They gave everything they could give. The coaches did a magnificent job preparing them. I wish we had found a way to cover the kickoff and end the game. We didn’t and that’s too bad. It’s sticks in your throat. It’s a bone in your throat there’s no questions about it. If you look at all the misfortune that we had over the course of the season you would have to say this team gave all it had and achieved all that could be expected of it. Maybe more”

Your thoughts on how Jim Caldwell did coaching this team for the last 2 seasons?

“I think he’s done terrifically. He took us to the Super Bowl last year and as I said with our last game with Tennessee he took a team that was missing anywhere between 11-and-7 starters essentially throughout the entire season and brought them into the playoffs and within one kick coverage of advancing to the divisional round. He could coach for 100 years and not do a better job than he did this year and of course last year taking us to the Super Bowl that’s all you can ask. Nothing more than that. We’re lucky to have Jim Caldwell and I’m glad to work with him every day and he’s a heck of a coach.”

Looking back as a career NFL front office executive how tough was this season with all the injuries in bringing a new player “every Tuesday” it seemed like this year?

“Well it’s toughest on A. Jim Caldwell and B. the coaches. Jim had to spend virtually all day Monday and most of Tuesday interacting with us in terms of trying to get the roster balanced up and decide who could play and who couldn’t play and making decision on putting guys on injured reserve, how we could construct a squad to even practice. That’s tremendously draining and it takes him away from helping the other coaches get focused on what we have to do to win the game. That’s the hidden part of all that. Secondly, the coaches themselves week-after-week had to get guys ready to play who had not been in mini-camp, not been in OTA’s, not been in training camp, knew nothing of our system. Alan Williams is probably the poster boy for that coaching the safeties. Every week he had a different guy. They were coming from all over. It wasn’t until we had Aaron Francisco come back that we had anybody with any familiarity at all with our system. That’s really, really, a tough job. It drains you over the course of 16-games. It zaps your energy. It causes extra work in a profession where an 18-hour day is the norm and do that as successfully as we did speaks volumes about both the dedication and the professionalism of this coaching staff.”

How optimistic and hopeful are you for business as usual in the NFL for the 2011-12 next season?

“Well I don’t know. The answer is I don’t know. I think there’s enough unknowns out there to make you pause as to whether or not there will be some sort of interruption of the normal routine. Will that extend to the preseason? Will that extend to the regular season? Might it endanger the Super Bowl? The odds of endangering the Super Bowl are almost non-existent. The odds of something existing into the preseason and on into the regular season I can’t calculate because I don’t know what the unions position is and it would be foolish of me to do so. One thing I know I told this to the players at some point in time the history of labor discussion in professional sports is that they end. At some point and you come back to work. You have an agreement and you have a new way of doing business. Both sides may not be completely happy, but business resumes as it always does. I know that’s what Commissioner Goodell wants and I know it’s what the owners want. I suspect very strongly that’s what the union wants as well. In that sense I’m optimistic, but I’m not a soothsayer and can’t predict the future. I don’t try to. I’ve always remained optimistic because I know and I’ve been involved in three of these things throughout my career. I know that sooner or later they do get settled and that’s going to happen here. The only question is when.”

What are your thoughts on a possible-yet-likely 18-game season? How do you think it will fair given all the injuries the Colts suffered during a 16-game schedule?

“Well, number one we don’t know. We haven’t been through it before. Number two, if it does take place the commissioner has said and the competition committee has worked on means of trying to make the load lighter for the players in the offseason and perhaps even in training camp, so that we have got a balance of work over the course of a long year. That gives them more opportunity to either recover that puts less stress on them in the offseason. Don’t forget and you made reference to 1987 and years past. Don’t forget up until 1993 we never had anything called “OTA’s.” We never had anything called “Formal offseason programs.”  Bill Parcells is one of the first to institute an off-season weight lifting program. That was a rarity then. Now we’ve gone essentially to a nine month a year job for football players. I’m pretty sure that will be cut back. I don’t know what your definition of drastically or dramatically or significantly might be, but I think certainly it’ll be cut back to some degree and hopefully to a degree that will give the players some balance both in their physical conditioning and in their lives. That should help going forward. The commissioner is committed to that as I say the competition committee has looked into that at some depth, so it’s a balance of taking work and stress out of the offseason probably helps get through a longer if not stressful season, well it is a longer season because we play 20 games now, but a little more stressful regular season.”

Listen to Bill Polian on 1070 the Fan

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