Rookie quarterbacks and first-year coaches were supposed to struggle. So Carolina’s Cam Newton tears up all kinds of rookie passing records and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton has his team on the verge of making the playoffs. Rookies played key roles throughout the league.
Jim Harbaugh took the 49ers from perennial also-ran to NFC West champion and, with a win Sunday at St. Louis, San Francisco gets a first-round bye. Ron Rivera has overseen a promising retooling in Carolina.
John Fox moved from the Panthers to the Broncos, then found through a month or so of the schedule that everything wasn’t working. Perhaps if he’d had the entire offseason, he would have found his way to turning the offense over to Tim Tebow then. That he did it in October _ and that the Broncos will win the AFC West by beating Kansas City on Sunday _ was not affected by the lockout.
`The lockout did not impact the teams with new coaching staffs as much as I thought,” Dungy said. “It probably impacted most teams the same. San Francisco is a good example.
“Rookies, they didn’t struggle, but the offensive rookies were ahead of the defensive rookies in terms of impact.”
That makes sense because offenses were far more successful for most of the season than the defenses, a function as much of rules changes and philosophy. That’s the way the NFL has been trending anyway _ though Dungy points out that quarterbacks throwing to receivers in informal workouts during the lockout could have contributed somewhat. We didn’t see nose tackles and linebackers sharing the same high school fields too often from March through mid-July while the league and players negotiated.
As for more players than ever going down with injuries, there’s no evidence the lockout caused anything close to that.
“I never worried about injuries, I thought guys would run and keep themselves in condition,” Dungy said. “They all have access to personal trainers, train all year round.”
One change in the rules in the new CBA, which limited the number of practices in pads and cut out two-a-day hitting sessions during training camp, was designed to limit wear and tear. Again, its effect has been minimal.
“Football is football,” Jets safety Brodney Pool said. “Things don’t really change from college to the NFL. For the most part, there’s only so much you can do, only so many routes you can run, only so many ways you block something up and only so many ways you can play defense. So missing that time didn’t have as much of an effect as people might think.”
Yes, as we head to the playoffs, unless the subjects are the Eagles or Colts, don’t blame or credit the lockout for much of anything in NFL 2011.
AP Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr., in Florham Park, N.J., Janie McCauley in San Francisco, and Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this story.
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