With the once-lifted lockout now in place until the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals rules -- likely coming later this week -- players are back in limbo. But the would-be rudderless ship of one team, the New Orleans Saints, has some pretty good direction, with 37 players participating in voluntary workouts organized by quarterback Drew Brees.
"We would all be working out somewhere anyway, so why not do it together," Brees said. "I feel like this is putting us way ahead of other teams by having it so organized."
He's right -- it's pretty obvious that when it comes to the 2011 season, teams will probably be split into tiers when it comes to an advantage out of the starting gate.
There will be one tier of teams that worked out together, frequently, who will be ahead of everyone else. There's another tier of teams who remain "loosely organized" but don't have a firm workout plan in place. And there'll probably be a tier of teams that don't do a whole lot of organizing.
Yes, it seems safe to say that you can figure out which will be which based on a) leadership and b) organizational structure. (Think "Saints vs. Bengals," basically.)
That being said, if people aren't at these workouts won't be looked at in a bad way by the rest of the team.
"I don't blame them if they're not here," said Brees, who is one of the plaintiffs in the players' lawsuit against the NFL. "We have no injury protection (as we would) if we were at the facility.
"You take a risk by being here."
Indeed it is a risk -- anyone that suffered a season-ending injury practicing when the league is locked out won't be subject to a lot of the perks they'd have were this a "normal" year.
But at some point, it should be normal in the NFL again, and those players will want to have the biggest possible advantage ... without causing any long-term damage to the roster.
"This is about getting guys back in, getting guys in the flow," Brees said. "We'll escalate it at some point to routes.
"There will be absolutely no contact. The point is to get guys together as a team."
Don't sleep on one more unintended -- or perhaps not? -- effect of these workouts: by bringing the players on the Saints together, Brees is also ensuring that, in a time of labor strife and factions-in-waiting, his troops remain unified.
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