Lockout Will Affect Rookies’ Early Impact

It will be up to the rookies to prepare for the faster rigors of a pro game.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Categories: Mike Duffy

With the recent decision from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granting a stay of the lockout at least until June 3, teams have no idea when they will have players back in the building.

There is no doubt that the prolonged work stoppage will affect the latest class of incoming rookies and the impact they can have in Year 1.

“It’ll be a challenge. If it gets to that point, it’s going to be harder to get rookies on the field,” said Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh in April.  “There’s no question about it. I think everybody’s going to have the same problem.”

The Lockout’s Impact on Rookies
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While the Ravens’ strong locker room leadership and a contingent of entrepreneuring veterans who are working to distribute playbooks could help Baltimore overcome the lockout’s impact, the fact is that rookies generally need team supervision during the offseason to get on the field.

“You put a premium on guys who are good players in college, who are smart guys who can pick things up quickly, who can play the way we like to play,” said Harbaugh at the pre-draft luncheon. “That’s probably always a premium for us.

“Maybe some of the later-round guys are more of the project-type guys. But, it will make it more difficult, no doubt about it. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Now, more than a month later, Harbaugh and all head coaches know they likely won’t be able to meet with their rookies for at least several more weeks.

With the draft behind them, Baltimore’s front office has only had contact with two players – cornerback Jimmy Smith (who has his playbook) and wideout Torrey Smith.

Without the ability to contact drafted players or even get them playbooks, it will be up to the rookies to prepare for the rigors of a game that is much faster than what they are used to in college.

“From here on, the lockout is just going to happen – it’s already happening,” Jimmy Smith, the Ravens’ first-round pick, said.  “So from here, it’s just, we’re going to work out and train as hard as possible and get ready to hit the ground running when we get to camp.”

The rookies would do well to attend the Ravens’ upcoming player-organized practice sessions, which are taking place at Towson University May 24-26.  There, they can at least meet their new teammates and perhaps crib notes from the playbooks of veterans.

“I think it’ll have maybe a little effect,” Torrey Smith, a Colonial Beach, Va., native, said of the lockout.  “But at the end of the day, you’re going to have to prepare the best you can in order to make sure that when you do come – you get the call that you’ve got to report – you’re ready.

“Luckily for me, I get the opportunity to connect with a bunch of these guys. Like I said, it’s a 30- or 40-minute drive for me to get here, so I plan on getting in touch with those other guys – the vets – and see what’s going on.”

Still, there is something to be said for installing a team’s offseason regimen, especially when no rookie has experienced it at the professional level.

“If this goes into June,” 2002 NFL MVP and CBS analyst Rich Gannon recently said, “I’ve had coordinators tell me you could pretty much write off the first year for these rookies. The coaches want to install as much as they can in minicamps, see what the new players can retain, then have them come back for other minicamps and offseason workouts, so by the time they get to training camps, they have seen what they need to do a few times.

“If the first time they do any of that is in training camp, that’s not going to get it done.”

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