NFL Lockout: Rookies Being Hit the Hardest While Money Isn't Coming in

Michael Schottey@SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterJuly 1, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Quarterback Christian Ponder of Florida State looks on during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The NFL lockout has created plenty of new characters for the average sports fan, and lots of different groups have sought to paint themselves at victims and everyone else as villains.

The one group that, unequivocally, has a greater burden than everyone else is the NFL rookies. 

Some of those rookies spoke with Bleacher Report at the NFLPA's "Business of Football" symposium at the IMG Training Facilities in Bradenton, Fla.

The NFL draft is a great event. The image of Cam Newton holding up a Carolina Panthers jersey, standing next to the beaming Roger Goodell, will be forever burned into the memories of countless NFL fans.

Since then, no paychecks have rolled in, no millions have been rolled in, no mansions have been moved into.

If MTV Cribs wants to showcase any of the NFL rookies, they will have trouble fitting all of that production equipment into one-room apartments or parents' basements.

Charles Clay (FB Dolphins) made headlines a few weeks back when he told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he has started cutting lawns to make money during the lockout. Clay has wanted to take part in the much-publicized, player-organized lockout workouts, but he can't afford to take a day off.

Not everyone is a sixth-round fullback, however.

Will Rackley (OL Jaguars) is living it up in real style, in a small apartment by his college campus in Bethlehem, Penn.

When I asked Rackley if he's had a chance to get together with his teammates, he said no. He can't afford a trip to Jacksonville right now. He's been using Twitter to learn more about his fellow Jaguars and was thankful that he could spend time with Blaine Gabbert at the NFLPA Symposium.

Anthony Castonzo (OL Colts) had one of the best responses when I asked him if there was one specific thing he had spent his money on:

"I ain't got no money to spend! Basically the only thing I spend money on is food right now. I'm living at my parents' house and not really spending money on anything. I don't have any money to spend. It's been very modest for me since the draft."

Titus Young (WR Lions) is also living with his parents in L.A. Marcell Dareus (DT Bills) is doing yard work in place of rent for his godfather in Birmingham.

Not exactly champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

Checking in with the first-rounders, Christian Ponder (QB Vikings) has been living in Bradenton on the IMG Campus working out. He made headlines when it was learned he flew teammates down for workouts in Florida.

It is important to remember, that isn't really Ponder's money. If Ponder never plays a down in the NFL, he still owes that money to IMG. Rather, it's an investment he's made in his future and in his relationship with his teammates.

"It's eye-opening for a lot of people, guys are accepting a lot of money they haven't had before, and it's easy to let it all slip out of your hands," Ponder said. "It's all about making good decisions with your financials."

Ponder was also impressed with a session by former New York Giants WR Plaxico Burress:

"It sounds like he has really changed and learned from the whole thing that he went through. He was telling the guys that every decision you make has a consequence good or bad and make the right decisions."

The Vikings' first-round pick plans to move to Minneapolis next week after spending Independence Day with his family.

The easy, and incorrect, write-off to this story is that all these rookies need is patience while they wait for the millions and millions of dollars to roll in. However, that convenient answer ignores the very real reality that these players face. 

A sizable chunk of these rookies may never see an NFL field. Some will languish on NFL practice squads; others will be cut outright and try to ply their trade in the UFL or north of the border. Still more will likely suffer a career-ending injury very early in their careers.

The lockout changes this dynamic even more, as shortened training camps could lead NFL teams to lean heavily on veterans in the upcoming season, eliminating the dreams of potential players even more than usual.

As a deal is getting done or not getting done, these NFL rookies are in a truly unique position in NFL history—fighting that much harder to make their lifelong football dreams come true.


Michael Schottey is an on-call editor for the Bleacher Report College Writing Internship, as well as an NFL Featured Columnist and an NFL Labor/Draft Expert. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, he has professionally covered the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions, as well as NFL events like the Scouting Combine and the Senior Bowl. Follow him on Twitter.