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Lockout Notes

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With the dog days of summer upon us, football fans are usually anxiously awaiting the opening of training camp. But this summer is different as the NFL is in the midst of its longest work stoppage since 1987.

It is now Day 112 of the lockout with both parties still negotiating terms to a collective bargaining agreement. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson briefly lifted the lockout on April 25, but an appellate court granted a temporary stay April 29 forcing players and personnel out of team facilities as the lockout rolled on.

Before the NFL Draft in April, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) encouraged players not to accept invitations to Radio City Music Hall to attend the first round in an attempt to show solidarity. Eventually, a record 25 prospects accepted and attended the opening night.

After hearing their names called, all drafted rookies are supposed to attend the annual Rookie Symposium which the NFL scheduled for June 26 in Canton, Ohio, but it was canceled this year due to what league officials termed “uncertainty” and “logistical challenges.” Instead, the NFLPA hosted its own version June 28-29 in Washington, D.C.

By now, teams have usually been installing their playbooks and schemes during OTAs (Organized Team Activities), which give new coaches and rookies critical reps and time to learning their new languages. Coaches and players can’t talk shop during the work stoppage, however, nor can they hand out playbooks.

The coaches most affected by this inactivity are San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh and Carolina’s Ron Rivera.

Harbaugh left Stanford and golden-arm quarterback Andrew Luck behind to try his hand at the pros. Currently, Alex Smith is the 49ers’ signal-caller, but second round pick Colin Kaepernick out of Nevada is the heir apparent. San Francisco could desperately use time in the classroom and on the field to familiarize themselves with Harbaugh’s new West Coast offense. Harbaugh has consistently stated that Smith is the starting quarterback, but Kaepernick isn’t out of the equation.

As for Carolina, Rivera came over after four seasons as San Diego’s defensive coordinator. Coming off of a disappointing 2-14 campaign, the Panthers drafted Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Cam Newton out of Auburn with first overall pick. If the Panthers choose to start Newton over Jimmy Clausen or Matt Moore, the lockout can’t end soon enough.

The lockout is also prohibiting is free agency and trades. Current unrestricted free agents can’t negotiate or sign contracts. The biggest free agent this offseason is Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. It is clear that Asomugha won’t return to Oakland. He wants to play for a contender while still making $14-15 million a season, but his search must wait for now.

Another hot name is Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb. With Michael Vick the clear starter, Kolb and the Eagles will most likely part ways while his trade value is still high. Teams like Arizona, Seattle and Washington could use some stability under center once activity resumes.

Even though OTAs have been interrupted, players have organized workouts at local high schools and colleges, but the pads are supposed to come on July 23 as training camps begin to open. So far there haven’t been any cancellations as talks continue behind closed doors.

Preseason play is scheduled to start Aug. 7 when the Chicago Bears take on the St. Louis Rams in the Hall of Fame Game. The NFL hasn’t canceled games since 1987, when Week 3 of the season was lost and Weeks 4-6 were played with replacement players. Fans hope it will stay that way.

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