Last month, Charley Casserly of CBS explained that, if/when a lockout comes, some teams will stay football-ready via player-organized workouts and practices.
Casserly said that one prominent quarterback has been scouting facilities that he and his teammates can use for player-organized practices. Another coach gave his players at their final meeting “very organized practice plans for workouts and passing camps that they can do in the offseason.”
The Redskins made sufficient use of the down time during the 1982 and 1987 strikes to win the Super Bowl to cap each season. But here’s the difference. In ’82 and ’87, the players walked out. This time around, the league would be slamming the door on the players.
And since workouts organized by the players would make coaches feel not as bad about not having access to the players and thus less inclined to insist to their owners that a deal get done, plenty of players will refuse to participate and/or try to persuade other players from doing so.
Case in point: Buccaneers player rep Jeff Faine recently expressed pessimism regarding quarterback Josh Freeman’s plan to conduct workouts during a lockout.
“You’re not going to see Josh Freeman and our receiving corps down at the University of Tampa soccer field,” Faine told Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times (via JoeBucsFan.com). “They might go out there and run some routes and throw. But you’re talking about getting an entire receiving corps together being able to work against an entire defensive backs corps. It’s just not going to happen.”
It’s hard to tell whether Faine was offering a prediction or making a guarantee. Our guess is the latter, since Faine seems to realize the leverage that the players will build as the time for offseason workouts ticks away.
“We need preseason,” Faine said. “We need training camp. We need the offseason. I’m sure [General Manager] Mark Dominik knows we need it, but his hands are tied. I hope the Glazers know we need it.”
On every NFL team, some players will want to focus on getting ready for the season and others will be trying to get the players to realize that doing so makes it harder to get a deal done on favorable terms. If the league is going to lock out the players, the players need to shut it down. Though it’s unrealistic to conclude that they’ll let themselves get out of shape, there’s a difference between running and lifting and conducting practice sessions without coaches present.
This dynamic adds significant risk to any wink-nod communications between coaches and players. If the wrong player catches wind of it, the player will surely blow the whistle.
It’s yet another reason for a deal to be finalized before March 4 and not at some later point in the year.