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NFL rookies wallow in lockout limbo
EDEN PRAIRIE, MINN. (AP) - There wasn’t much time to celebrate during Christian Ponder’s first day as a Minnesota Viking.
The Florida State quarterback, drafted 12th overall to take over for the departed Brett Favre, knew time was of the essence when he arrived at team headquarters on Friday, and he spent all day meeting with coaches and going over Xs and Os while the lockout was temporarily lifted.
“We don’t know how long this window will be open so we have to take advantage of every moment and try to get him the information that we think he’ll need to come back, whenever that is, with a working knowledge of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after introducing Ponder.
Ponder’s cram session wasn’t unique. Rookies across the league scrambled to get in, meet coaches and pick up playbooks before the doors were shut again.
The lockout was restored Friday night after the owners were handed a legal victory by a federal appeals court. The labor fight threatens to rob this year’s rookie class of precious preparation time in the offseason to get them ready to make the leap from college to the NFL.
The lockout prevents rookies who didn’t make it to headquarters on Friday from speaking with coaches, picking up playbooks and working out at team facilities. Organized practices and minicamps also are off limits until the lockout is lifted again, which could come as early as next week or drag into the summer, depending on how things play out in the court system.
And the rules are iron clad.
Raiders second-round pick Stefen Wisniewski took a tour of the team facility Saturday with his uncle Steve, who is the Raiders assistant offensive line coach. But even having a family member on staff won’t allow the younger Wisniewski to have contact with his coaches during the lockout.
“I don’t think the NFL recognizes family loopholes,” Wisniewski said. “He’s my coach and he also happens to be my uncle, but I’m not going to be able to talk to him.”
Coaches are concerned about having enough time to get the youngsters ready to contribute. That is particularly true for quarterbacks who may step in and play right away, including Ponder, Cam Newton in Carolina, Jake Locker in Tennessee, Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville and Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.
“We’re going to have to make up for lost time,” Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “Whenever something transpires, we’ll be able to hit the ground running and be able to overcome whatever feeling of being behind the eight-ball that we may experience.”
The uncertainty was making some of the rookies a little antsy.
“I’m just ready to get in and get to work,” Dalton said. “With the whole lockout situation, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Once the chance comes, I’m ready to get in and get going.”
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