How players are living with the lockout

Time to get to work.

Uh, there’s this thing called a lockout muddying the NFL

landscape, however. So players from Miami to Seattle are on their

own to stay in shape while the lawyers argue in Minnesota and

Missouri courts about the merits of the work stoppage.

Right about now, veterans normally would be at team facilities

for offseason workouts. Minicamps for rookies would be days away,

with those veterans attending full minicamps soon after.

Instead, for as long as the lockout is in place, there’s

nothing.

”Yeah, this is a time we need to be working out and getting

ready for the season,” said guard Chester Pitts, a nine-year vet.

”We need to be at the facilities working hard. A lot of guys are

doing it on their own, but it’s not the same thing.”

Pitts notes there was hope for a return to some regularity last

week when Judge Susan Richard Nelson approved a temporary

injunction blocking the lockout. But the league got a stay of that

injunction on Friday, and a one-day break during which players were

allowed to report to team headquarters was nothing more than a

short respite.

”I got so many texts from guys, one after the other, asking:

‘Do we go, do we not go?’ All I could tell them is to hang tight,”

Pitts said.

He can’t tell them anything more, so Pitts encourages his peers

to be diligent about their training. He expects players to soon

start working out in groups, and the New York Jets got a headstart

with what they call Jets West in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Several Jets have joined quarterback Mark Sanchez on the West

Coast for team bonding and a chance to get more familiar with the

offense. It’s not a first-time gathering, but this year it takes on

added importance if the players won’t be together in New Jersey

anytime in the near future.

”We’re kind of ready for any scenario,” Keller said of the

labor talks. ”But it’s important to get out there with Mark and

the guys, be together to work on things and just kind of get a feel

for everything we need to be doing.”

Jets coach Rex Ryan has been consumed with draft preparation for

about a month. With the draft over, he normally would be making

plans to welcome the rookies for a minicamp in which they get

familiar with the playbook and the team’s overall tactics. Ryan’s

defensive schemes are complex, and top two picks Muhammad Wilkerson

and Kenrick Ellis, both defensive tackles, certainly could use the

opportunity to practice them.

”This is the first time you really notice it,” Ryan said.

”Everything up until this point, it’s really almost been business

as usual in the fact that we had the draft and you’ve been trying

to look at as many college kids as you can. It’s just now where

it’s hitting since they’re not working out (at the facility) and

those types of things.”

Left in the deepest limbo are the rookies. Most first-round

picks were able to pick up playbooks from their teams during that

short break in the lockout. All the others had no such luxury.

Some people in NFL personnel departments fear 2011 will be a

wasted year for many of those rookies if they can’t communicate

with their new teams. Others point out that having a playbook in

hand and actually using it are entirely different matters.

Linebacker Von Miller, the second overall selection last

Thursday by Denver, spent two hours with Broncos coaches going over

the playbook when the lockout was temporarily lifted.

”It was extremely important to have that and get a start on

it,” said Miller, the only college player who’s a plaintiff in the

players’ antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. ”I’m excited to be a

part of the team and to let the guys know I can be a trusted

teammate.”

But he has to let them know that on his own, with no interaction

with the Broncos organization.

Any interaction with Denver players at training venues away from

team facilities is OK. According to Jarvis Green, who spent eight

seasons with the Patriots, such workouts aren’t the same.

”It’s different when you have your guys next to you,” Green

said. ”There’s just an emptiness right now.”