by Ryan Thompson
Normally, the early spring welcomes in young rookies as fresh as the newly cut grass in the backyard, wily veterans looking for new beginnings, and coaches scheming for a taste of glory. But in this NFL offseason, it is debatable whether some players have even taken the time to leave the couch. As the draft has come and gone, and with June approaching, time is ticking. Players and coaches alike will soon feel the heat.
Slowly but surely the cloud of the NFL lockout is looming over the horizon, attempting to blot out the sky. While some progress has been made, the players and owners are still a ways off from coming to terms and the realities of not having a 2011 season are becoming more and more palpable. And these uncertainties have left many players and coaches unsure of what to do with themselves.
Rookies in particular are faced with a severe disadvantage. This is usually the time of year when guys can get out doors in shorts and t-shirts at team facilities, to get a feel for the game at the ultimate level of competition. Instead, players like Cam Newton who will hope to make an impact as a rookie this season are unable to get out there with teammates, which will not help come September.
Other guys have publically taken the time to relax and forget about all that is the game of football, bragging about extended vacations and long weekdays on the couch. Reggie Bush tweeted just a few days ago, “Shoot I’m making the most of it! Vacation, rest, relaxing, appearance here and there! I’m good!” Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson backed him up in a recent NFL.com interview, saying: “There is not one NFL player who hasn’t enjoyed [time off during] the lockout. I’m just being straight up honest.” And while these players may have the right to their opinion, their decisions to broadcast these opinions to the public are further complicating the lockout battle in court, where one of the central issues is whether or not the players are being harmed by the work stoppage. Already, owners have used these and other tweets and comments as evidence that the players are not only undamaged, but are actually enjoying the break from work. Which, in turn, could lead to a longer and more difficult lockout.
And then of course there are the players who have been using their time off to get in trouble with the law. Like Jason Peters. Peters was pulled over for blasting his music too loud in his car in Louisiana last Saturday, then refused to show his drivers license to police, upping the ante to a resisting arrest charge.
To top it off, others have ventured out into other forms of competition. Hines Ward has spent his time as a contestant on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, and Ocho Cinco is pushing for a try in the MLS league. In fact, he even announced that soccer was his true love as a young athlete, and it was his grandmother who really made the decision for him to play football. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? And if that wasn’t bad enough, Ocho has also decided to try his hand at bullriding sometime this offseason. The lockout has pushed NFL players in all sorts of strange directions, and with the opening kickoff still uncertain, who knows what the future will hold for players around the league. Perhaps, in truth, the better question is: “How long will NFL players survive without the one game that they and know and love?”
We know fans need football. Without it Sundays could potentially be filled with trips to the store with the girlfriend or wife, or worse, listening to their problems for an entire day, and we all know that can’t happen. And as time wears on, it is becoming clear that without football, players and coaches will be just as lost. So as those May afternoons will soon turn to June, and the start of training camps would in any other year be on their way, let’s get it together. For the sanity of the fans, and perhaps even more so for the well being of the players: we need football!