Thomas Dimitroff was driving to a scheduled NFL meeting the other day, then decided it would be better for his mental and physical well-being if he went for a bike ride instead.
“I made it all the way to the Camp Creek Parkway exit,” the Falcons’ general manager said. “Then I sort of made a U-turn and went back home to Buckhead.”
Dimitroff didn’t actually miss the meeting, which was canceled. This was Thursday afternoon. NFL owners were scheduled to vote on a proposed collective bargaining agreement with the players at an airport hotel. The league’s general managers were scheduled to meet shortly thereafter at a different hotel to go over new CBA rules. But as owners kept delaying their vote for no apparent reason — oh look, here comes the dinner buffet! – Dimitroff decided he didn’t feel like sitting in a hotel to wait them out.
So the cycling enthusiast/snowboarder/general rare breed among NFL GMs went home to get his bike.
“In the spirit of the Tour de France, which had a massive stage that day with three incredible climbs, I decided to blow off some steam and hammer around the neighborhood,” he said. “Rode for about an hour and 15 minutes.”
This NFL lockout has caused damage and frustration. We touched the other day on the league and club employees who’ve paid the price – with salary cuts or even layoffs – while owners and players figure out how to divide their roomful of gold bars. The fun of offseason roster shuffles also has been smothered.
Here’s another one: I can’t imagine the frustration of being a general manager right now. They’re programmed to evaluate players, form a plan for their respective roster and then implement that plan. But during this lockout, they can only really do the first with confidence. Even forming a plan is subject to change because there has been no certainty about the parameters of the CBA.
Falcons fans must wonder to what extent this affects the team’s makeover plans, following last year’s tremendous regular season (13-3), but ugly playoff exit (48-21 loss to Green Bay).
It’s July 23. Dimitroff’s job normally is done by now, but he hasn’t even started yet. When the CBA is finally agreed to, this is going to be like a 32-team drag race. The only question is which teams start dropping engine and transmission parts after flooring the gas pedal.
Logic says Dimitroff and his staff have long since finalized their priority list of re-signings, street free agents and a possible difference-maker (likely target: Minnesota defense end Ray Edwards, who’s also reportedly coveted by Philadelphia and New England).
When asked how the lockout has affected his football-operations staff, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said: “They’re like a sprinter. They keep getting called back from the starting line because they went out too quick.”
Dimitroff liked that analogy. Then he added his own: “It’s like being a piece of driftwood. Solid and sound. Drifting through rough waters, staying the course, until you get to the calm straight.”
We really need to get this guy something to do.
He admits he has had to guard against the over-analysis that relative free time can lead to. (I was thinking this would’ve been a good time for me to seek Fantasy League advice.)
“No question, there have been times when we’ve said, ‘OK, we’ve discussed that enough. Let’s move on,’ he said. “But we’re not complaining or being cynical about everything. I strongly believe this league is about adapting and changing. That’s the only way we can approach this thing. We’re being as patient as we can be. We’ll be prepared when it’s time to go.”
Here’s one plus: When the CBA is done, Dimitroff said he’ll feel on even ground with other general managers for the first time.
“We’ll all be in the same boat,” he said. “It’s exciting to me that I’ll be going into my fourth year with a new CBA. I came in during the previous one, and I’ve always felt like I was trying to play catch-up.”
Soon, everybody’s head will be spinning. And there won’t be time for bike rides.
By Jeff Schultz