If, as it seems, the NFL lockout ends within the next week, it appears that the only game in the 2011 season that could potentially be in jeopardy would be the Hall of Fame Game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams. However, it appears as though preseason and the regular season are to proceed as expected. Given the long nature of the lockout, there are sure to be ramifications – both positive and negative – for teams, and individual players for the 2011 season. I personally see this as being a season ripe for the breakout of individual players.
But who do I see these breakout players being? I’m not referring to the obvious Cam Newton’s or Blaine Gabbert’s. My money is on veteran players, and other relatively unknown players who have been in the league for a number of years, having the potential to have a very successful year. The reason I see it being a veteran, backup, or even third stringer with a few years of NFL experience is due to a few factors. First off is the NFL experience they have had. Players who have been in the league for a number of years know the “scheme” of the team they play for, they have on the field experience – or at the very least, NFL style and intensity practices under their belts, and they have had a chance to adjust to the increased speed, aggressiveness, and intensity of the NFL.
Some are likely wondering how the lockout might have this effect. During the lockout players were forced to take control of their own personal and multi-player training efforts. This means that guys were on their own, finding their own trainers, as well as their own facilities to practice in. For those who evaluate their performance during previous seasons are able to identify the areas where they have the greatest number of weakness. When working with a personal trainer, using a regimen that is very much individual-oriented, one can focus on those areas of weakness. Whereas, in team oriented practice sessions, this may be a lesser focus.
Many players, since they had to take their own training upon themselves, have also contacted players from their own, as well as other teams. This gives them a wider variety of skills to enhance since most teams run slightly different offensive and defensive schemes. Players are exposed more directly to those differences. Cores that have gotten together to have self-directed practices are also likely to be at an advantage as they have stayed in shape, have worked with the playbook, and have also likely stayed in better rhythm as a unit than those cores who have not been focused on team-oriented practice sessions.
As much as who has been working out, with who, how much, and on what, are also those players who have slacked off during the lockout – and there are those who have done this. These players are likely to come back out of shape and out of sync. Could this lead to a slew of early season injuries due to lack of conditioning? It seems that this could certainly play out as such, which would allow backups a chance to show off their skills, perhaps breaking out as a great player who makes a big impact on the team in the 2011 season. One thing is for certain, if things go off without a hitch and we have football as we expect to, this is going to be an interesting season for sure.