NFL teams with new coaches dispute disadvantage

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ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP) - The compacted training camps and abridged free agency are challenges for everyone. They could be doubly difficult for the eight NFL teams with new head coaches installing their schemes on the fly and getting their first real look at their rosters following the 136-day lockout.

A quarter of the league’s 32 teams are rolling out a new coach this year: the Cowboys, 49ers, Panthers and Vikings in the NFC and the Broncos, Browns, Raiders and Titans in the AFC.

In many ways, those eight franchises are behind the proverbial 8-ball, but they all insist they’re in much the same situation as everyone else navigating the free agency fire drill and training camp cramming sessions.

“I’m not going to say that we’re going to be as even as a team that has the same playbook and has the same players,” Denver linebacker Joe Mays said. “I’m just saying that we’re not going to be too far behind.”

Two of the new coaches _ Dallas’ Jason Garrett and Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier _ shed their interim titles this offseason and may have gotten a little bit of a head-start, and two teams promoted assistants _ Hue Jackson in Oakland and Mike Munchak in Tennessee, so there’s some continuity there.

Richard Seymour led some three dozen of his Raiders teammates through a week’s worth of detailed workouts in suburban Atlanta, but other teams with new coaches weren’t really able to hold what amounted to coachless minicamps during the lockout like Drew Brees did with the New Orleans Saints.

They simply didn’t have the experienced rosters, established staffs and entrenched systems and were left to work out in a more rudimentary, haphazard fashion with pockets of players getting together to lift, run, stretch and decipher the circulating playbooks.

“Hopefully training camp catches us up,” Raiders safety Tyvon Branch said. “You probably know as much about the defense as I do right now.”

He’s lost but certainly not alone.

“Everybody’s trying to play catch-up right now,” said Broncos backup quarterback Brady Quinn. “Without a doubt, the rookies have it the hardest. So, kudos to them if they can get in the playbook and get on the field early. Because that would be quite a feat.”

Teams might decide to hold back their veterans when preseason games begin, especially the free agent additions who aren’t even allowed to practice with their new teams until next Thursday.

That could make for some ugly football early on.

“Do you ever not see bad football from younger guys?” said Broncos safety Brian Dawkins.

Frazier and Garrett got their first head coaching gigs with teams that faltered last year amid high expectations. Munchak took over for Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, and Jackson was promoted from offensive coordinator in Oakland, replacing Tom Cable.

John Fox left Carolina for Denver, replaced by Ron Rivera. Jim Harbaugh left Stanford to take over for Mike Singletary in San Francisco and Pat Shurmur supplanted Eric Mangini in Cleveland.

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