NFL players still at work _ lifting on their own

Work, work, work. Even during a lockout.

Right about now, many NFL players normally would be preparing for offseason workouts at their teams’ facilities. Nothing more complicated than lifting weights, running, stretching, massages.

This hardly is a normal year, though, and with the league having locked out the players, those practice venues are off-limits. And while March isn’t the most critical time for pro football _ it is, after all, nearly six months before kick off of opening weekend _ as the labor stoppage continues, the need for teammates to gather together will grow.

Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme met former Cleveland teammates punter Dave Zastudil and safety Nick Sorensen at a local recreation center on Tuesday. The trio spotted for each other while lifting weights and spent time in between sets discussing family matters and the labor situation as some of the gym’s members took note of the celebrity visitors.

Wide receiver Greg Camarillo of the Vikings got an LA Fitness membership in Miami.

“I’ve been trying to fit in with the regular gym-goers, which is interesting because I’m trying to work out to create physical strength and stamina while other guys are trying to work out to look good in the mirror,” he said. “There are guys in there for two or three hours without a single drop of sweat on them. I’m curious what they’re up to, but it works.”

For NFL veterans, meanwhile, getting fit is part of the, uh, job.

“Every player understands what is involved in our profession,” says Colts center Jeff Saturday, a member of the NFLPA’s executive board. “We have to be working out and staying in shape. However, how players decide to do that is their individual right.”

They are doing so at places such as St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis and Elite Performance Factory in Westlake Village, Calif., which have been planning for just this scenario since last August _ seven months before the lockout happened.

St. Vincent, a hospital-affiliated facility, began upgrading its equipment to replicate the inside of an NFL complex, particularly when several teams visited SVSP as they evaluated training bases they could recommend to players.

Most important to Ralph Reiff, the director of St. Vincent, is providing a venue that makes the players comfortable, and that fits the medical needs of those rehabilitating injuries.

“We found out for the players, much like any other citizen who loses a job in the United States, there is a lot of anxiety in that,” Reiff says. “Not only the loss of revenue, but the change in lifestyle and disrupting of the daily pattern. He can’t go to Lambeau Field to work out or to the Colts’ complex to get treatment, and there’s some anxiety around that. Things that were under control in your life are now out of control. We have tried to make that transition easy in a very uncertain environment.”

Earlier this week, Reiff says 11 NFL players were at St. Vincent, including Patriots receiver Deion Branch, Colts linebacker Gary Brackett and Panthers punter Jason Baker. He has also noticed an increase in players coming off season-ending injuries.

“With the lockout, the medical staff and anyone who receives compensation from the team organization, they can’t have any contact with the athletes,” Reiff says, “so the athletes who would typically be going in for medical care on a daily basis can’t do that anymore. They had to find alternative locations to do it.”

They’ve found those locations across the country. Outside of Los Angeles, former NFL tight end Billy Miller runs Elite Performance Factory, which regularly has the likes of Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and Keith Rivers on hand. Miller talked to one NFL organization that he won’t identify about sending all of its players to his facility for workouts during a lockout.

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