|03-21-2011, 11:21 PM|
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Teicher: Without lockout, Chiefs offseason conditioning program would’ve started
Without lockout, Chiefs offseason conditioning program would’ve started Monday
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
NEW ORLEANS | The NFL’s failed labor negotiations and subsequent owner-imposed lockout of the players has claimed another victim. The Chiefs were to begin their offseason conditioning program Monday, but instead all was quiet at their Truman Sports Complex practice facility.
To those for whom the lockout seemed more of a concept than a reality, that perception changed in a hurry.
“This is normally the time guys are getting back in the city and getting their apartments arranged if they don’t live there,” Chiefs center Rudy Niswanger said. “You’re catching back up with guys, seeing how their offseason was. It’s about time we’d get back together as a group and work out and run and all that.
“You feel like you’re missing out on that team unity you get in the offseason.”
The league’s labor issues have been real for some time to Niswanger. He was formerly the Chiefs representative to the NFL players’ association and now is their player advocate since the union disbanded.
Linebacker Andy Studebaker and safety Jon McGraw are alternate player advocates. Linebacker Mike Vrabel and guard Brian Waters are on the player advisory committee.
Chiefs coach Todd Haley was attending the NFL meetings in New Orleans on Monday but unavailable for comment. But he’s said the Chiefs laid much of the groundwork for a successful 2010 season during the spring last year.
The Chiefs have a new offensive coordinator in Bill Muir and quarterbacks coach in Jim Zorn, but both are unable to communicate with players under lockout rules.
“It hurts the team, it hurts the fans, it hurts the game of football for us not to be out at the stadium working out and getting ready for next year,” Studebaker said. “That’s what we want to be doing, but we have to have a fair deal in place for us to be able to do that.
“How much is it hurting us? I can’t say. But I can tell you it’s better to have everyone there working out and getting ready to play football than having nobody there.”
The labor situation has also been real for Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt. He’s on the NFL’s labor committee and was in on the negotiations with players before talks broke off.
But the gravity of the situation reached a new level for him on Monday.
“It’s the first opportunity we’ve had to discuss the issue with all 32 teams present since the lockout began and since the mediation failed,” he said.
In a normal year, a team’s focus at this point would be on free-agent acquisition and draft preparation. And conditioning programs generally begin around this time, first with workout programs and classroom work for the players and then practice later in the spring.
“We’re missing the opportunity to interact with our players, who would just now be starting to come back in and get started with the offseason program,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I’m sure as we progress further, it will be more real for all of us.
“As a coach, this is probably one of the more enjoyable times of the year because you get to spend time with your players in an environment where it’s not the stress of the season and you’re not preparing for a game. You really get a chance to build those relationships that help develop that chemistry that allows your team to progress. That’s a part of it you really enjoy.”
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said: “Coaches are always going to find ways to fill their time. We’re busy with the draft. It just puts more emphasis on our draft preparations. Evaluation of players is a 24/7/365 proposition. That doesn’t change or anything because of timetables or dates or things like that.”
On the business side of their operation, the Chiefs have spent much of the 10 days since negotiations broke off trying to conduct business as usual.
“It has very much been business as usual with one difference,” Hunt said. “We’ve tried to communicate with our fans, with our sponsors and with our season-ticket holders as much as we could about the issue because people have questions about it. The biggest concern from the season-ticket holders is what’s going to happen if we end up missing games. We have a refund policy, and we’re answering a lot of questions about that.”
Regarding the football side, Hunt said he was comfortable the Chiefs would be ready whenever the lockout ends.
“If we had been going through this last year or the year before, I would not have felt nearly as comfortable because we weren’t nearly as far along as we are now in terms of building the team,” he said. “Having success in 2010 and the confidence that’s bred and the experience that’s bred positions us well going into the 2011 season whenever we get to start training.”