Will lockout impact quality of play?

I’ve wondered a lot about how the lockout will impact the quality of football we see come September.

I’ve got mixed feelings on that. Sure, the lockout’s the worst possible thing that could have happened for a team such as the Carolina Panthers, who were already young and have a new coach (Ron Rivera) and quarterback (Cam Newton). It’s also less than ideal for a young Tampa Bay team.

But I don’t think it’s going to be that detrimental for the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons and a lot of other teams around the league. In fact, I think missing out on months of organized team workouts could improve the quality of play.

Check out this article by Pete Prisco. He talked to coaches and players and a lot of them believe that this offseason has given bodies a better chance to recover. I tend to agree with that. In recent years, I think teams got a little out of hand and, in one way or another, had players practicing almost all year round. That’s too much because players put their bodies through so much during the season.

Even without formal workouts this year, most players have done a good job of keeping in shape by working out on their own or attending some group workouts.

A month or so ago, I had a follow-up visit with the surgeon who touched up both my knees back in February. He works with one of the non-football pro sports franchise in the Tampa Bay area and we were talking about the lockout. He said he expects to see a lot more injuries this year.

I brought up the part about how I think the added rest and recovery time could help. The doctor didn’t suddenly drop his stance but said I had a valid point and some players might benefit from the time off.

Sure, there are bound to be a few players who let their conditioning really slide with their new-found freedom. But I’m thinking they’re a very small minority. We’re talking about professional athletes who have known all along the lockout will end at some point and they’ve kept themselves in shape. Coaches already know what the players can do and that includes the rookies, who they've scouted extensively. A month or so of on-field work might be good enough in most cases.

Assuming training camps open on time or close to it, the players will get a healthy dose of coaching. That might be all they need and we might not see any drop in the quality of play. Maybe then we’ll see that highly structured offseason team programs aren’t all that important.