SBJ/May 23-29, 2011/Labor and Agents

Players adjust to ‘culture shock’ of working out without coaches

Liz Mullen
Up until last month’s draft, the NFL lockout didn’t have that big an effect on how the league’s coaches and players work. After all, between the Super Bowl and the draft, coaches are focused on which players their franchises plan to select at the draft — bringing in prospects for visits and drawing up their draft boards. Players, meanwhile, are taking time off after the previous season.

But as the lockout, which began March 12, continued into May, coaches and players who would normally be working together in mini-camps or organized team activities (OTAs) are working separately. That’s not something either the players or the coaches like, according to coaches agents, player agents and players themselves.

Larry Kennan, executive director of the NFL Coaches Association, said coaches around the league miss being able to work with their players and badly miss being able to hold mini-camps and OTAs. Coaches, Kennan said, are dying to know what kind of shape the players are in so that when and if the lockout ends, formal training for the 2011 season can begin. 

Attempts to interview coaches for this story were unsuccessful. The NFL declined to comment or make a league official available for this story.

Kennan said coaches know that players are working out, but there’s another piece to that. “Some of them,” he said, “are doing a great job; some of them aren’t.”

NEWSCOM
Drew Brees has been holding camps with other Saints.
When and if the lockout ends, coaches will have trouble trying to determine whether to “overwork” or “under-work” players in order to get ready for the season, Kennan said.

It’s been widely reported that NFL players across the league who are locked out of their clubs’ training facilities have been conducting their own workouts. In some cases, team leaders, including New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, have been holding their own training camps with players from their teams. Others are working out at private training facilities and paying for it themselves.

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was one of about a dozen NFL players from different teams working out at private training facility Athletes’ Performance in the Los Angeles area last Monday. Normally at this time of year, Edelman said, he’d be at the Pats’ facility in Foxboro, Mass.

“Of course you miss your coaches,” Edelman said. “This is the time where you put in a lot of film study and that kind of stuff with coaches. And they ultimately know what is best for you and the team, so it’s going to be good when [players] get back.”

Free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who also was working out at Athletes’ Performance, said he believes both coaches and players are feeling “a culture shock” as a result of working apart.

“To be honest with you: Coaches, they don’t want a lockout,” said Houshmandzadeh, who was a player rep for the Baltimore Ravens last year. “They get used to a schedule and a routine like we do. They are used to us being at the facility. They are used to us talking to them, and having fun, and everybody being around each other. That’s fun. So they don’t have that. So it’s almost like a culture shock to them, as it is to us.”

Meanwhile, Houshmandzadeh, a 10-year NFL veteran, has become a sort of unofficial coach for the NFL players working out at Athletes’ Performance, setting an example in his work ethic as well as his words, said Travelle Gaines, director of elite athlete development at the facility. “T.J. is the pacesetter,” Gaines said.

ROSENHAUS SIGNS PLAYERS: NFL player agents and brothers Drew and Jason Rosenhaus have signed Houston Texans offensive guard Kasey Studdard and Washington Redskins 2011 third-round draft pick Leonard Hankerson, a wide receiver from the University of Miami.
 
CAA SIGNS DAVIS: CAA Sports has signed NFL Network analyst Charles Davis for representation. He will be repped by a team of agents, including Trace Armstrong, Andy Elkin, Tom Young, Becky Sendrow and Jeff Roth.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.
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