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Lockout issues include independent offseason work, injury rehab

by | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
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INDIANAPOLIS -- St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said during Super Bowl week he was eager to get to St. Louis to meet with new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to begin easing the transition to the second new offense he'll have to learn in two years.

Bradford also talked about getting his teammates together to work on the new offense should there be a lockout. Around the league, other players have talked about similar plans. In Cleveland, it has been reported that quarterback Colt McCoy has been meeting regularly with new coach Pat Shurmur.

It turns out there are a lot of unknowns of what will be allowed if there is a lockout. However, what is known, at least according to the letter of the law governing the players and the league, is that players are not permitted to receive playbooks at this time.

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The current collective bargaining agreement, which expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on March 3, has strict rules regarding what players can do before the beginning of offseason programs.

The CBA states: "Prior to the start of offseason programs, players are permitted to use the Club's facilities on a voluntary basis subject to the following rules: (i) such players may not receive per diem payments or workout bonuses of any kind and may not be paid or reimbursed expenses for travel, board or lodging during this period; (ii) such players are not permitted to participate in organized workouts, practices or meetings of any kind; (iii) the Club's strength and conditioning coaches may not direct such players' individual workouts, but may supervise use of the weight room to prevent injury, correct misuse of equipment, etc.; and (iv) such players may not be directed or supervised by position coaches during this period."

The ban on "organized workouts, practices or meetings of any kind," as well as the fact that "players may not be directed or supervised by position coaches during this period" simply means that players can't even meet with their coaches, much less get a playbook.

It's believed that very few people understand the prohibition. Minnesota Vikings players talked openly about being able to get playbooks from new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

Several other players in the league have talked about finding a way to practice together.

"Even if we have to organize things on our own, something's going to be done," Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "As a player, you have to take initiative and work within your rules."

But no one seems to know what the rules will be in the event of a lockout. Without a CBA, there really are no rules.

San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who is busy putting together his team's playbook with new head coach Jim Harbaugh, recently acknowledged he won't be able to provide playbooks for his players.

He also said during a lockout, "We're not going to have any contact with the players in a football sense. And, we really haven't up to this point. We're too busy dotting I's and crossing T's. You don't want to give players information that's not fully concrete, so we'll just have to take it as it goes. I don't believe we're allowed to give them any football materials."

Players also have to be mindful of the potential for injuries during non-sanctioned activities. Said Tampa Bay Buccaneers center and player rep Jeff Faine, in response to comments by quarterback Josh Freeman about practicing on their own, "You're not going to see Josh Freeman and our receiving corps down at the University of Tampa soccer field. They might go out there and run some routes and throw. But you're talking about getting an entire receiving corps together being able to work against an entire defensive backs corps. It's just not going to happen."

Another major issue will be for players rehabbing from injuries suffered in 2010. If there is a lockout, players will be on their own in continuing to work to recover.

Said Detroit Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who went on injured reserve Dec. 8 with a neck injury, "There will be no direct communication with the coaches or even trainers. As far as me, I don't have rehab. That's all behind me. But other guys who are in active rehab, I think trainers right now are trying to get information about where they'll be rehabbing, what facilities they'll be at; just making sure they're comfortable with the guy's plan during the offseason.

"But [during a lockout] the trainers can't directly contact players and find out where they're at and how their rehab's coming and how they're progressing. Players are going to have to do a good job of staying on top of it and making sure they're doing the right things because the team can't monitor what they're doing."

Howard Balzer is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange.

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