Rookies lose big in NFL shutdown

Time lost now hard to make up

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NEW YORK | Blaine Gabbert shrugs when asked about the good fortune of actually having a Jaguars playbook in his possession.

The first-round draft choice from Missouri took advantage of a one-day, court-ordered window in the NFL’s lockout of the players to visit with Jacksonville’s coaching staff. He also was given the equivalent of a pro football bible, and immediately began studying the playbook, even if he couldn’t put it to use on a field.

“It’s great to have it and I’ve already gotten into it a lot,” Gabbert said soon after going 10th overall. “But I don’t have any teammates right now to run through the plays with.”

With minicamps and offseason workouts normally occurring in early and mid-May, Gabbert and his fellow rookies are among the most obvious losers as the lockout heads toward a third month.

“If this goes into June,” 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon said, “I’ve had coordinators tell me you could pretty much write off the first year for these rookies.

“The coaches want to install as much as they can in minicamps, see what the new players can retain, then have them come back for other minicamps and offseason workouts, so by the time they get to training camps, they have seen what they need to do a few times.

“If the first time they do any of that is in training camp, that’s not going to get it done.”

In federal court papers filed Monday, the league argued the situation would be even more damaging and chaotic if the lockout was lifted without a new collective bargaining agreement. NFL attorneys predicted the better-off teams would sign a disproportionate number of the best players, wrecking the league’s competitive balance.

All this time off isn’t doing much good, either.

Among the teams at the biggest disadvantage are those with new coaching staffs: the 49ers, the Panthers and Broncos, although at least Denver’s new coach, John Fox, brings plenty of experience - and victories - from Carolina.

Jim Harbaugh has been coaching, quite successfully, at Stanford and now is in San Francisco, where he’s barely gotten to know some of his players. Ron Rivera, a longtime defensive coordinator elsewhere, now is in Charlotte, taking over the NFL’s worst team.

Both could use lengthy, in-depth discussions with their players, and long looks on the practice field at them.

Not happening.

“This is just a critical time, and the longer this goes on, the more it benefits teams like Green Bay and New England,” said Gannon, who hosts a show on Sirius NFL Radio and also is an analyst for CBS. “Those teams with continuity with the coaching staff and quarterback position and coordinators.”

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