Jaime Dukes and former Baltimore Ravens’ head coach, Brian Billick, sit down to discuss the impact of the lockout. The team staffs have more time this off season to analyze game film, but are also twiddling their thumbs in hopes of a deal getting done. Week long vacations have been booked and the waiting game has commenced. Rookies peruse their playbooks and attempt to decode the mystic cypher of NFL terminology. From fans to players, the lockout has affected everyone different this off season. The big questions remains, when will the madness stop?
To the hardcore NFL fans who follow the league throughout the year, the impending fate of the NFL lockout was well known even before last season started. It wasn’t until recently when newspaper headlines read, “NFL owners lockout players” that the casual football fan caught word of this catastrophe. Yet, many people still don’t understand what the lockout does to the NFL.
For starters, the lack of free agency and ability to trade has put teams in a frenzy, not knowing who can fill their position needs and who will resign to their team. Obviously, the goals of each team are to get the best player possible to fill each position to build an elite team. But try drafting players without being able to test the free agent market. If you need a quarterback but don’t draft one, you are forced to look for free agents that will be willing to sign for the right price. If another team gives them a better deal and signs them, then you’re S.O.L.
Without having an official off season yet, there are questions as to how it will fit in with training camp that are supposed to start in the next months and preseason quick to follow. Imagine having a long term project due in a week but you wait until the last night to start it. The result is a poorly done, thrown together report that is not to standards. I see this happening as the time ticks down while the lockout is still in place. The regular season has a deadline and must start in September but the mandatory events leading up to it must be crammed into the small space before it.
As far as players are concerned, the two biggest groups that will be immensely affected are this year’s rookies and last year’s draft class. The rookies this year face a challenge in learning a completely new playbook. Many might say “How hard is that? It’s the same sport so playbooks won’t be that different.” In actuality, the adjustment from the college to the professional level of football is a leap of gigantic proportions. It’s like learning a new language. Pretend you know Latin fluently but now must learn Spanish. Many of the words are derived from your previous language but everything from the accents to pronunciation is different. Offense and Defense change dramatically as well as all of the terminology. You can only learn so much from reading a playbook fifty times but without a coach to teach you, the knowledge is worthless. If I hopped on a plane to Spain with nothing but a Spanish – English Dictionary and my elementary knowledge of the language, I wouldn’t have much luck finding my way around. The same can be said for collegiate players transitioning to the NFL.
The second year of your professional football career is the most important. You’ve gotten your experience and know what it’s like to play in the big leagues. Now is the time to capitalize on what you know and work twice as hard this off season to fine tune your skills. The only problem is that you can’t talk to any coaches or trainers and must work out on your own. It’s a dilemma that many players face this off season and they won’t be able to evolve their skills the way they should.
As we all hope that this lockout will end as soon as possible, let’s hope that the effects felt throughout the league are easily resolved so we can get back to what we love most…Football.