Events in the NFL moved quickly today, and nowhere quicker than at 1 Jets Drive.
Just before sports network crawls were announcing that the league and the players had agreed to terms on a new CBA, the New York Jets' football triumvirate — owner Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan — spoke to their assistant coaches, front office personnel and the football support and business staffs about hitting the ground running for the 2011 season.
"We have a saying in our building: When it's tough on everybody else, it's just right for us," Ryan addressed the team's employees in the auditorium at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "It doesn't surprise me that our organization came through this with flying colors."
Johnson, wearing his basic black and white business suit complete with green necktie, was pleased for all in the team's complex as well as for owners, players and especially fans around the NFL who heard this morning that the players and the league came to an agreement on the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"I couldn't be happier that we finally passed this," the Jets' chairman and CEO told newyorkjets.com after the organizational meeting. "It's most important now to get our players back in the building. We've lived here for 130-some days without the players. We didn't build this building for that reason. We built it for the players."
The rules and timelines under which NFL teams would be bringing in new players such as unrestricted, restricted and undrafted free agents are still being refined, but one wrinkle on the NFL timeline early on today was that as of midnight tonight, signed players can return to their team headquarters.
"Yeah, it's a possibility they could show up at midnight," Johnson said. "It remains to be seen if any will for us, but if they do show up at midnight, we'll be ready for them."
One issue for all Jets non-player employees was the furloughs and/or pay reductions that all were asked to endure from March through July. Johnson promised that if no games were missed that all employees would be "made whole."
And with the prospect that the Jets will open their preseason on schedule — and on national TV — on Monday night, Aug. 15, at Houston to play the Texans, Johnson told the organization this morning that if they hadn't received it already, the money would be "in their accounts" by the time they left the meeting.
"At the beginning we realized that asking people to take 25 percent paycuts at this time would be a tremendous hardship. It was a shared sacrifice, in a period where we had unknown financial conditions," he said. "I don't think anybody was happy about it. I wasn't happy that I had to ask people to do this. But now that the agreement is in place, we're living up to our end of the bargain and we're all moving forward."
For players and fans, the bargain includes a return to football. Whatever the new guidelines for teams to start interviewing and signing players, new and old, to the roster, the usual NFL timeline for these events will be condensed from months into weeks or even days. "When we start," Tannenbaum said, "it'll be unprecedented."
As Mike T and his staff have proven in the past, they're already prepared to move at the speed of the new schedule's demands and to set the table for Rex.
And when the smoke clears and training camps and the games begin again, Ryan has a message, for his fellow employees in the auditorium, for the players soon to return to the facility, and for Green & White fans everywhere:
"The New York Jets are right where we want to be."
We'll bring you additional details of the start to the league year (a.k.a., the start of the free agency signing period), players reporting to the complex, and Jets training camp as we get them.