On Monday Judge Susan Richard Nelson ended the NFL lockout that plagued almost the entire offseason. I was shocked when I initially read the report. Like everyone else, I’m even more confused as to what this entails for day to day operations for teams around the league. But thinking on a deeper level, two thoughts came to mind. For one, I thought since the lockout was technically over, could the Lions start pursuing free agents to fill some needs before the draft. Maybe add some depth to the Oline, pick up players to fill in roster spots. Anything that could make their decisions on draft day a little easier. Secondly, I thought the Lions would get in contact with players. See how their workouts are going, see if injured player’s rehabs are progressing, and maybe even organized some team workouts.
Unfortunately, since this ruling added further confusion to this entire situation none of my optimistic thoughts came to be. It was reported yesterday by ESPN that most of the teams around the league were still preventing players from entering team facilities. While some teams allowed players in, they could only talk people in the organization but couldn’t workout until the league received further clarification on this ruling. No one on the current Lions roster even attempted to go to Allen Park to enter team facilities. This was mostly due in part by Kyle Vanden Bosch advising teammates to stick to their current football activities away from the team until they figure out the details.
While this is still a sticky and confusing situation for both parties involved, I’m shocked and a little disappointed that the Lions front office didn’t take advantage of what could be called a window of opportunity. It’s one thing to not let players enter team facilities but I hoped that Mayhew & Co. at least reached out to certain players to get an update on their status. It’s been a month and a half since the team was allowed to contact players. Especially those named Matt Stafford and Zack Follett. Stafford is the most important pieces to the Detroit puzzle. With him the Lions could be a playoff contender, without him progress is stalled. Follett can impact the strategy on free agency or needs on draft day. If he’s on track to be healthy this season, it’s one less need the Lions need target this offseason.
The lockout is going to hinder the younger teams of the NFL. Teams like Detroit need offseason OTAs and workouts to get players on the same page and to gel as a unit. Veteran teams know what they need to do in order to prepare for the season. Peyton Manning works out with his receivers around this time of year to prepare for September and later. Remember when Blair White stepped into the Colts active roster? It looked like him and Peyton have been playing together for seven years. That’s completely due to the offseason workouts and the amount of time him and Peyton put into practice and running routes. The Lions are losing valuable time as the lockout continues each day.
Even though there really is no clarity as to how much a team can contact players, I’m hoping the Lion’s push the envelope. Make as much contact as you can with the team and get a feel for how players are preparing on their own. Young teams need all the guidance and preparation they can get. No one really knows how long this window will be open for but Detroit should take advantage of it now and get their players on the same page before it’s too late.