NEW ORLEANS — Despite the uncertainty caused by the NFL’s ongoing labor dispute, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said his job and focus haven’t been affected.
The usual free agency signing season didn’t commence on March 4, and there are no offseason conditioning sessions going on at Redskins Park, but otherwise it’s business as usual, Shanahan said at the owners’ meetings here Tuesday.
“We as coaches are still going from 7 in the morning to 7 at night, looking at the draft, looking at film from the season, still looking at all your cut-ups,” Shanahan said during the coaches’ breakfast. “So that won’t change until the middle of May, when, possibly, we won’t have our OTAs. So from my standpoint, nothing has changed. Until the middle of May, nothing has changed.”
Shanahan acknowledged that the Redskins’ method of meeting roster needs differs this offseason because the draft is the only certainty; it is scheduled for April 28. Free agency won’t begin until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. But that takes Shanahan back to the way things were done in the 1980s, when he broke into the NFL’s coaching ranks.
“I was in the league in ‘84 and you never thought free agency,” Shanahan recalled. “You were always pointing toward the draft because you couldn’t get other players and trades were uncommon. So it was football. And then you had the draft, and then your football team was ready. People forget that free agency hasn’t been here all that long.
“I think it is going to be different for everybody that’s been involved since [the start of free agency] than where the draft is first,” Shanahan added. “... I think [this offseason] most people, since they can’t fill any voids [with free agency], they’ll draft the best player available.”
Shanahan said he didn’t address his players before the lockout and advise them to coordinate group workouts until the labor dispute is resolved.
“That’s not our job, to talk to them about lockouts and strikes or whatever. The natural leaders on our team will take care of that,” Shanahan said before adding that he expects players to be in shape whenever the lockout is resolved. “If these guys don’t take the initiative, then I’ve got the wrong guys on the football team to start with. If they can’t figure out where to work out, then they’re the wrong guys to have on your team.”
Shanahan said he is aware that assistant coaches and other NFL employees could face pay cuts or layoffs , depending on the length of the lockout. But for now, nothing has changed at Redskins Park, he said, and he is encouraging the team’s staff to focus on doing their jobs.
“I think everybody wonders what’s going to happen,” the coach said. “It’s not just the coaching staff, it’s the whole organization. Everyone is wondering what’s going to happen. We’ve said, ‘Let’s focus on the draft. Nothing’s going to be decided in the next couple of weeks, so we’ll focus on the draft.’ Hopefully it’s resolved by then, and if not, then we’ll decide what’s best for our organization.”