Minutes after the NFL announced that the owners passed the new CBA, the Cincinnati Bengals sent out an email to season ticket holders, proclaiming that the lockout is about to be lifted, asking "Are you ready for some football?" Of course we are, you silly gooses. The (decertified) NFLPA dampened spirits of course, cooling euphoria on a hands joined around the world song that would have seen free agent signings as soon as this weekend. Not that it's completely their fault; it would seem that the owners tried pulling a quick one on the players, slipping items into the deal that weren't even discussed.
But the Bengals letter was out, reflecting a certain excitement creeping from the throats of fans ready to put this behind us so we can, as a resident reader said, get into the meat of things.
We are excited to let you know that the NFL has reached a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows the entire NFL season to be played this year.
The NFL is the most popular sport in America. Our games are intense, unifying and meaningful to fans in the stadium and to those watching at home. We are thrilled to have a labor deal in place that will provide fans with a decade of certainty and that will allow us to focus all our energies where they ought to be – on the playing field. The upcoming 2011 season will surely be exciting, and football work will begin shortly. Our coaches will begin meeting with players, and the Club will welcome back talented veterans along with exciting rookies from the April NFL Draft, like top picks A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. Whether all of that will take place in Cincinnati or Georgetown, Kentucky, will be decided shortly once we receive the NFL’s operating schedule.
Two years ago, our football team swept the AFC North—one of the toughest divisions in football—and many key components of that team remain, including defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and a defense that ranked in the top half of the NFL for three straight seasons. The area of the team that will change the most will be the offense with a new direction under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and new faces at quarterback and wide receiver. The mix of veterans and rookies should return our offense to the top level we need, and we are excited by the challenge.
This year—like others before it—we will focus our energies on returning to the Super Bowl again. That’s what we want and that’s what our fans want, and our franchise has been blessed with great support from fans for decades. Last season we reached a record-setting 57th straight sellout—a string we hope to restart soon—and our games have been the most-watched television program in the local market for the last applicable 96 ratings weeks. This is great football country, and incredibly: 95% of the Cincinnati population watched an NFL game during the 2009 season (third highest ranking among NFL markets).
We are very grateful to our fans, we thank you for your patience during the labor stoppage, and now we look forward to a great season together. Who Dey!