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There’s also enhanced concern about injuries. Few players are likely to be close to football shape when they report _ whenever that is.

“The lack of offseason will seriously affect those that have not prepared on their own or at a facility,” said Brian Martin, CEO of TEST Sports Clubs in Florida and New Jersey, places where dozens of NFL players train. “Based on working with over 60 active NFL guys, I believe it is roughly 50-50 with those that are workers and those who are not. Many rely on natural gifts and they will be affected with the lack of mandatory conditioning.”

Trainers and coaching staffs, therefore, will have to keep a sharp eye on which players were diligent about working out during the lockout and which ones were not. If any top players arrive out of shape, pushing them to get ready in such short time _ the first full weekend of preseason games is less than three weeks away _ would be problematic.

“The most common injuries will be pulled muscles, hamstrings and groins primarily, due to lack of preparation,” Martin said. “Players need to lengthen and strengthen muscles in the offseason to be ready for the rigors of the NFL.”

The concerns about physical health are mirrored by concerns of financial health. The deeper the lockout goes, the more costly it will become for both sides _ serious financial losses that will shrink the overall revenue pie.

If the Hall of Fame game is the lone game victimized by the labor dispute, NBC would be entitled to a refund for not having that game to televise. That could come in the form of money or credit going into the next rights fees contract with the NFL. Or the league could give the network an extra game or some additional programming.

If the networks (and local affiliates for non-nationally televised games) lose a full week of preseason matchups, the monetary hit rises exponentially.

“The losses for each preseason weekend (canceled) will be over $200 million,” Ganis estimated, “or roughly $35 million per day.

“Because of the way the NFL season progresses over the calendar, problems become magnified if they haven’t started playing by the middle of August, and are magnified many times more if they aren’t playing by Labor Day. Back-to-school shopping and promotions and advertising tied to the NFL are lost and … it could cause major advertisers to have doubts about the all-important holiday season and divert advertising money elsewhere, potentially starting a ‘run on the bank’ as advertisers scramble to not get shut out.

“It could get ugly.”


AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver, and Sports Writers Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Joe Kay in Canton, Ohio, contributed to this story.