NFL Notebook: Lockout will make product suffer

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NFL Notebook: Lockout will make product suffer
May 14, 2011, 10:18 pm
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Sunday, May 15, 2011
Posted: 6:16 p.m.

By Ray Didinger
CSNPhilly.com

The Eagles should be in minicamp. Michael Vick should be working on his mechanics and improving his blitz recognition. Juan Castillo should be getting to know his personnel on defense. The rookies should be studying their playbooks.

A lot of things should be happening at the Nova Care Complex and around the NFL, but theyre not.

The NFL lockout is in its second month and if you dont think that real damage is being done, think again.

I still believe well have an NFL season in 2011. I believe the owners and players will ultimately put their egos aside and settle this mess so they can put a product on the field in the fall. But what kind of product will it be?

A lesser one, most likely.

No one knows where this is headed. On Monday, the two sides will meet in Minneapolis for another round of court-ordered federal mediation. Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash and several club owners will sit down with DeMaurice Smith, the head of the players association, and their lawyers. Judge Arthur Boylan will be there to mediate.

No one expects much to get done. The owners have their talking points, the players have theirs and they will keep spinning this around and stalling for time until the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on whether the injunction lifting the lockout is upheld or overturned. That ruling is not expected until next month.

So we sit and wait. Meanwhile, valuable time is being lost.

Think about all the things that are on hold. Teams cannot hold spring camps. Rookies who were drafted last month can have no contact with their coaches. Players who were not drafted but hoped to sign as free agents now sit in limbo watching their chances of making an NFL roster disappear.

Veteran free agents wonder when they will be able to shop for a new contract. With each day the process becomes more problematic. A player like Kevin Kolb knows his football future is somewhere other than Philadelphia and in a normal year he already would be in that city getting ready for next season. Instead, he waits while the lawyers file briefs and the clock continues to tick.

Every team claims to have a game plan for what it will do when the dispute is settled and Im sure thats true. But it doesnt change the fact everyone will be playing catch-up and there is no way to get back the time they are losing now.

While I think the minicamp process can be overdone, it does serve a purpose. It knocks off the winter rust, but more than that it allows coaches to begin installing their systems at a certain pace. They can take their time, walk the players through it and wait for the new guys to catch on before moving on to the next step and the next.

When the players report to summer camp, they are already familiar with the playbook, so the coaches can pick up the pace. The pads go on and the hitting starts and coaches focus more on sharpening than teaching as they prepare for the regular season. The daily tempo is cranked up several notches but its OK because the foundation was put in place earlier.

But what if there are no minicamps? What if the lockout lasts through the summer and wipes out training camp? We are talking about hours of practice time and thousands of snaps that will be lost.

If the league tries rush through an abbreviated pre-season, what will the NFL look like when the curtain finally goes up? There will be more injuries because the players wont be as well conditioned. The execution will be sloppy because the timing will be off and the new players wont know which way to turn.

In short, it will be ugly and the fans who will be cranky after listening to months of labor talk will be quick to voice their displeasure.

There could be a significant impact on the rosters. During the salary cap era, veteran players, older guys who once were starters but now were backups, were the hardest hit at cutdown time. Teams were spending most of their salary cap on their stars so they were filling out their rosters with rookies and minimum wage guys. The middle class veterans were the ones getting squeezed out.

That may change if the lockout continues much longer. Teams wont have enough time to get their new players, especially rookies, up to speed so coaches will want to keep those journeyman-types because at least they know what they are doing. As a result, a record number of draft picks could wind up on practice squads.

Of course, the two sides could avoid all this by working out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the next few weeks. But I wouldnt count on it.

A Giant assist
New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck went to Alabama last week to aid residents who were ravaged by the recent tornadoes.

The storms struck near Tucks birthplace of Kellyton. One tornado caused extensive damage at the University of Alabama where his sister Brittany attends school. (She was not injured).

Tuck joined forces with J.P. Morgan Chase and World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, to provide help for those displaced by the storms. They donated 275,000 to the effort with Tuck kicking in 25,000 himself.

But Tuck did not stop there. He went to the devastated areas, rolled up his sleeves and helped put things back together.

I plan on doing just about everything I can when Im down there, Tuck told the New York Daily News. If that includes rebuilding homes or whatever it may be, Im game for everything.

A final word
Memo to Bernard Hopkins.

Donovan McNabb doesnt play in Philadelphia anymore.

Let it go, man.

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net

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