Judge Susan Nelson lifted the NFL lockout for a very brief period of time last week and it became painfully obvious that the NFL players want to get back together with their teammates and play some football. Raiders’ third-year tight end Brandon Myers was at the team facility during that brief period of time while the lockout was lifted and met with the local media for long enough to tell them that the franchise expected 30 players to show up and get schedules for voluntary workouts that would have started this week had the stay not been granted by the St Louis court.
Hue Jackson was asked if he was able to get any information to his players during the brief “un-lockout” period. “Oh boy, I was trying to get them as much information as I could,” said the first-time head coach. “Oh man, I don’t know how much we were able to give them before the league said ‘stop’, but I know that we were trying to do everything that we could within the rules to make sure that we got our players the information that they needed.”
The biggest disappointment for the Raiders does not lie in the fact that there are new plays to put in place because the playbook on offense is nothing more than a variation of last year’s. The biggest disappointment is in the fact that they need to continue developing that sense of team that it takes to go out there every Sunday and play for each other.
Love him or hate him, one of the things that Tom Cable was able to do during his tenure as head coach was to take that discombobulated locker room and get them all on the same page. There was a sense of companionship emanating from this Raiders team that hadn’t existed since the Gruden days. The longer the lockout carries on, the longer that sense of community has to narrow.
“The expectation is different – but there’s no question that our player are – I hope when we come back we hit the ground (running),” said Jackson. “A lot of our guys know exactly where we are and what we’re trying to accomplish on offense, defense, and special teams.”
Something to take into consideration is that it is their job to know what the team is trying to accomplish, but without being in a controlled environment it is extraordinarily hard to actually get them in a position to conquer their goals. The fact that the coaches are not allowed to have contact with their players is a completely asinine stance on the part of the NFL. I can understand no free agency, no renewal of contracts, and no undrafted rookies, etc. But the lockout has almost nothing at all to do with the coaches or fans, so why are they being punished?
The fact that thirty players were expected to show up at the team facility shows their desire to get together and work to get this thing on track; however, the back and forth bickering and posturing with no progress is beyond my comprehension. The NFL filed for a permanent stay on Nelson’s injunction today. The hearing for that decision is expected to come at the beginning of June. Seriously, this has gone on long enough now hasn’t it?
Last year, mini-camps ran during the last week of May. That’s typically the time when the rookies get to come in and meet their new teammates. In addition to that, it also gives second year players and some third year guys, like Myers, the opportunity to continue working to grasp the team’s philosophies. This is a particularly important time when you have an overhauled coaching staff like the Raiders this year.
At this point in the year, you would also like to know what is going to happen with free agency and the salary cap. The expected new rookie wage scale really won’t affect the Raiders cap room this year because of the lack of a top ten pick for the first time in umpteen years. But the free agency is going to be huge for them considering that the best available player on the market this year just happens to play cornerback for them.
Hue Jackson says that the Raiders are prepared for anything, but read between the lines.
“I think we filled the holes,” Jackson said, “But I would be in my opinion not a very good coach if I said, ‘OK, that’s enough.’ I want as many good football players as I can put on this football team that are going to give us the best chance to win each and every week. I’m not adverse to anything. As we move forward, obviously it’s about who you can put on your team, be it based on money, be it based on whatever, all that is, and we’ll cross those bridges as we go.
“But I really think that this team right now, we have done a great job of plugging holes, filling needs, and feel very strongly that we have a pretty sound football team as we get an opportunity to come back together and go practice.”
The bottom line is that while the NFL and the NFLPA (non-union) joust and pose in their seemingly endless cycle of ridiculousness, the least they could do is let the players and coaches come together for meetings and practices so that the product that they put on the field in the fall when we all buy those really expensive stadium seats and souvenirs isn’t full of holes. Hue Jackson can say they filled as many holes as possible, but even the hearty Hue can’t expect to have a sold out stadium if the product on the field is subpar.
On another note, Raiders’ rookies got assigned their numbers today. Check it out.