Unlocking the NFL: Teams and Players Better Move Fast

Derek CrouseContributor IIIJuly 19, 2011

They were far apart, but are almost together on a deal.
They were far apart, but are almost together on a deal.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Now that the NFLPA and team owners are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, franchises are starting to gear up for training camp. There is tons of speculation from fans wondering how their favorite teams will fare.

With the lack of preparation and many new faces in new places, the beginning of the season could bring some surprises.

The No. 1 factor that all teams will be focused on is getting everybody on the same page in a brief time interval. You have to remember that there have been no OTAs or mini-camps heading into the preseason. There are seven rounds worth of NFL rookies who have not had a chance to take hits and get into real football shape, which cannot be simulated in any way. This could be a problem for the later-round picks.

Furthermore, when training camp gets underway, the playbook could be a bit overwhelming, especially for offensive rookies. The prospect of implementing a system in such a short time could be problematic for coaches.

The younger talent and free agents will have to show what they have to offer under duress. A team might give a free agent more of an ultimatum than an offer. For example, if a lineman wants to test free agent waters, the team might give him an offer and tell him, “Hey, if you don’t take this deal, we are going to look in another direction because we need the foundation of the position.”

Franchises have to keep positions secure, so free agents might not be able to just pick and choose his contract like in seasons past. Then, the coach has the challenge of getting a feel for what he has overall when it comes to new talent, whether they are free agents or young players who have yet to shine at the NFL level.

In particular, young players who are trying just to make a team will suffer. Veteran players will have an edge.

There are a number of teams out there who have changed coaches and systems. Leslie Frazier lost the interim tag for the Minnesota Vikings as did Jason Garrett for the Dallas Cowboys. The Vikings have lost Brett Favre, and standout wide receiver Sydney Rice is testing the free agent waters.

Meanwhile, Garrett has been a part of the Cowboys since the 90s dynasty, when he was a backup for Troy Aikman. With Tony Romo having a young talented offense, they should improve on the string of wins they put together at the end of the 2010 season.

The Tennessee Titans parted ways with Jeff Fisher and hired Mike Munchak, who was an offensive line coach. The Carolina Panthers went towards a defensive coach in Ron “Chico” Rivera, who was the defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers and the Chicago Bears. Both of those teams had dominant, league-leading defenses. When the Panthers fired Jon Fox, the Denver Broncos picked him up and now he’s looking for Tim Tebow to grab the reins in his second year.

The San Francisco 49ers grabbed Jim Harbaugh and are hoping that he can do what he did in Stanford. Coaching kids is totally different than coaching NFL veterans who have lives besides the game and egos to match. We have seen college coaching prodigies suffer, and people will wonder the same about Harbaugh.

When pads are put on and the two-a-days start, there will be injuries. This will be due in part to the fact that not every player works as hard as the next guy. Many players have said they are still taking it easy trying to heal from last year, which is good for them personally, but is it good for the overall well-being of the team?

You can almost guarantee that somebody will have to rush to get rid of somebody on their fantasy football roster due to a serious injury before the regular season starts.

No matter what happens, the NFL has avoided a serious hit to their reputation and pocket book in getting the collective bargaining agreement almost wrapped up. The question is, who will lose or gain the most from the 120-plus days of the NFL lockout?