Any connection between lockout drama and kickoff excitement?

Football fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The NFL season that almost never happened because of a five-month lockout is underway. Bucs fans are happy that their team won its second game, beating Minneapolis 24-20 in a close game with the Vikings dominating the first half and the Bucs winning in the second.

Just weeks ago, the football draft had no end in sight with tensions running high between the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and the team owners. Over 130 days of meetings and court sessions could not resolve the issues regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). ESPN aired round-the-clock coverage of the lockout including in-depth explanations of what the CBA entails. The decisive issues of the CBA include team salary cap, maximum rookie wage and random drug testing.

On July 26, with only one week until the projected start of training camp, the NFLPA and the team owners came to a mutual agreement on the CBA.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith shook hands in what was the handshake seen ‘round the world. The next day, free agency and trading started, yet players, team employees and fans worried that the lengthy lockout would reduce the quality of the football games.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coming off a previous ten-win season, have yet to show signs of decreased performance. Buccaneer community relations employee Yanna Pantelis knows that despite the lockout, the hometown team is ready for a great year.

“The lockout was a tough situation for everyone and it’s really great to be back to football,” Yanna states. “Of course everyone worries about the lack of an off-season to make improvements, but our guys are great.”

Quarterback Josh Freeman held weekly practices and kept the team in shape during the lockout. “Josh really brought the team together and that just shows the kind of guys we have here in Tampa,” Yanna said.

The Buccaneers, along with the other 31 football teams, are more than ready for football kick into gear…and so are their fans.

“I’m looking forward to being with the fans again and really joining together for our team,” added Yanna. “We have an exciting schedule this season and, as always, I’m looking forward to seeing our guys play some great football.”

Great football is definitely in store this season as shown by the opening matchup between the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers against the 2010 champion New Orleans Saints. The two powerhouse teams battled it out in Lambeau Field and after a staggering performance by the Green Bay offense, the Packers won with a score of 42-34. After just one week of NFL action, this season promises to be one for the record books.

The players showed they are ready for the season, so there is only one question left: Are YOU ready for some football?

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Any connection between lockout drama and kickoff excitement?