Dealing with more than four months of a labor stoppage was difficult enough for NFL fans. Now imagine what some of them will go through as their teams spend the next four months being victims of the lockout.
Specifically, the Colts, Giants and Raiders might suffer most from the lack of offseason communications between players and teams, and from all those lost meetings, workouts and minicamps.
Folks in Indianapolis are questioning why it took until the onset of the regular season to discover just how slowly Peyton Manning was recovering from May neck surgery — and that he'd need another surgery Thursday. Manning has said the inability to be examined by Colts trainers with whom he regularly has dealt through 13 pro seasons was a hindrance in his rehabilitation.
He also was unable to use team facilities to help gauge his pace of recovery.
"Probably the best part of being in camp and having my contract signed is that I can rejoin the training staff," he said when the Colts opened camp on July 31. "Because being away from them has set me back and kept me from making the progress that I would have liked to make."
Now, the Colts are relying on a 38-year-old coming out of a very brief retirement in Kerry Collins, and not on the only four-time MVP in NFL history. Hardly anyone in Indy remembers what it was like not having Manning behind center — although current 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh does. Harbaugh was the last man to start a Colts game at quarterback before Manning.
"That was a long time ago. What, 1997? That is amazing," Harbaugh said. "That's just a testament to the greatness of Peyton Manning. My goodness."
Manning's absence also is a testament to the labor stoppage — indeed, one of the biggest negatives to come out of a basically negative situation. The star quarterback hardly is the only key Colt hindered by the long impasse between owners and players. Receiver Austin Collie also has said being kept away from the team's medical staff slowed his recovery from a concussion that prematurely ended his 2010 season.
Once the NFL reopened for business, several teams were hit with the injury bug, none as severely as the Giants. Certainly it can be argued that injuries plague every roster regardless of when.
But when a club loses so many players so quickly after an offseason filled with questionable voluntary workouts, doubts about conditioning crop up. Gone for the season are cornerback Terrell Thomas, middle linebacker Jonathan Goff, second-round pick DT Marvin Austin, CB Bruce Johnson and backup LB Clint Sintim.
First-round draft pick Prince Amukamara, a cornerback, broke his foot early in camp, and two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umemyiora is still rehabilitating his knee after arthroscopic surgery.
"This is adversity," veteran safety Deon Grant said. "This is the NFL. Dealing with what we're dealing with, I don't think it's happened like that in a long time."
Of course not; there were no lengthy offseason work stoppages in the past.
New York also released two starting offensive linemen, Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert, a dangerous thing. Tearing up a veteran unit and disrupting cohesiveness after a lockout hardly seems a viable approach.
Across the country, another team likely to be damaged most by the lockout is Oakland. The Raiders lost their top two players in free agency, although they were prepared for All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to leave; he wound up in Philadelphia.
Tight end Zach Miller headed to Seattle, and the replacements at those positions don't exactly scare opponents.
The Raiders want to be a running team, but other than allowing their most consistent blocker, Robert Gallery, to leave, they did little to aid their suspect offensive line. Few clubs seemed as ill-prepared for free agency as Oakland did.
In general, it could be argued that any team changing coaching staffs or bringing in a new quarterback — or both, such as in Tennessee, Carolina and Minnesota — is at a huge disadvantage. The Colts, Giants and Raiders just might rue the lockout more than anyone else.
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