Gibbs often hammered the “brotherhood” component of the offseason, too. Football teams are families, he said, and families benefit from family time. It can’t be replaced or occur in a hurry. That’s not how relationship building works.
Undoubtedly, owners understood the danger of their strategy when they ended the previous agreement that directed the planet’s most successful league. They sought a bigger piece of the $9-billion-plus pie and were, as it turned out, only willing to torch the entire offseason in hopes of breaking players, who held firm and improved their position.
NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith updated reporters on talks to end the lockout Thursday afternoon, saying players are discussing the possibility of recertifying as a union. (July 21)
Based on the NFL’s importance to the public, owners figured the lockout was worth the potential short-term damage resulting from substandard play. After all, fans quickly re-embraced the NFL after replacement players were used during the in-season strike of 1987.
Despite inferior play, fans forgave. There were no long-term effects from the temporary decline in fan interest. And as long as owners can count on the revenue from luxury suites and club seating, they’re satisfied.
Although the world’s best football players are returning, they still could benefit from an appropriate amount of preparation. That’s not what they’ll get before reporting to training camp.
Those informal player-organized workouts provided great photo-ops at high schools and colleges, and some bonding surely occurred among those who attended. It’s just not the same thing as structured work under the direction of coaches.
Rookies face the toughest road. Many struggle going from college to the NFL after participating fully in offseason programs.
They’re often overwhelmed while trying to learn large playbooks, adjusting to the faster speed of the game and, in some cases, changing positions. For rookies, their chances of making an impact during the season decrease with each day missed in the offseason. That’s why long contract holdouts are so risky for rookies.
Free agents also are at a disadvantage. They need time to learn roles in schemes and the strengths and weaknesses of their new teammates.
Teams with proven quarterbacks and strong leadership in the locker room are the best equipped to handle the condensed offseason. The best players will do even more to help set the tone while others play catch-up, which there figures to be a lot of this season.
Regardless of its warts, the NFL is back. The games will be entertaining and fans will revel in the excitement. They just shouldn’t expect 2011 to be the year of the rookie.