Commentary

Training camps may be next casualty

Teams that want to travel need lead time to set up sites; lockout complicating matters

Originally Published: May 30, 2011
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Roy WilliamsJeff Gross/Getty ImagesCowboys fans hoping to catch training camp in San Antonio or Oxnard, Calif., may be disappointed this season.
The NFL Rookie Symposium was the first league function canceled because of the lockout.

What might go next could cost the NFL fans. Although the owners and players have the entire month of June to reach a collective bargaining agreement, the waiting game of legal positioning could make training camps the next problem. The damage could be the fans' ability to see their teams in those camps.

The Cincinnati Bengals need to know by July 15 whether they can have their training camp in Georgetown, Ky. The Indianapolis Colts are working on a deal to have camp in Anderson, Ind. The Dallas Cowboys would like to have camps in San Antonio and Oxnard, Calif., but there's a cutoff point sometime in July to make that happen.

Sure, teams can have their camps at headquarters and properly prepare for the season. But that would leave the fans out. Because the Green Bay Packers train across the street from Lambeau Field, one of Wisconsin's top tourist attractions, they can go to the eve of camp without interference. But will Pittsburgh Steelers fans be deprived of seeing their team in Latrobe, Pa.?

That's why it is vital that both sides start moving toward an agreement at the June 7-8 mediation session in Minneapolis. It's scary when you hear DeMaurice Smith, head of the players' trade association, talking about not wanting to form the union again. It's concerning that a counter-offer hasn't been formulated since March 11, when the players' union decertified.

It will be late June before we know the results of the hearing June 3 on the lockout in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Owners are expected to win that round, and the players are expected to get some leverage once Judge David Doty gives a damage award in the separate case over television money.

While everyone waits, though, fans lose leverage in being able to see their teams in camps.

From the inbox

Q: It was reported on NFL.com that Javon Walker and free-agent cornerback Ike Taylor took a bus to work out with the Raiders in Georgia. Do they just want to get some work in or are they planning to sign with Oakland when the lockout is over?

Tim

A: Things like this are happening a lot of places. Donovan McNabb isn't a member of the Arizona Cardinals -- and won't be -- but is working out in Phoenix with Cardinals players because he lives in Phoenix. A lot of players from other teams are getting together for workouts with Houston Texans players in Texas. Players who live in Miami are working out together because they are in Miami. The Oakland Raiders can't afford to add a high-priced cornerback after re-signing Stanford Routt. Walker's days are done in Oakland. They are just finding a place to work out with a bunch of other players. Don't read much into it.

Q: If the Eagles add Plaxico Burress, how much will they utilize the five-wide set, with the following receivers in order of depth: DeSean Jackson, Burress, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Brent Celek (TE)?

Ted in Philadelphia

A: The Philadelphia Eagles threw 127 passes out of four- and five-receiver sets, so there is a great chance they will try a few more five-receiver formations if they sign Burress, particularly with Michael Vick at quarterback. Spreading the field with receivers puts smaller defenders on the field, and Vick can beat them when he runs and he can beat them with the pass. Last season, Vick completed 71 of 116 passes out of four- and five-receiver formations for 905 yards and three touchdowns. I don't know if they would add a lot of five-receiver sets, but they would have more temptation to try some.

Q: Being a Packers fan I've seen that Matt Flynn has been able to produce in games after Aaron Rodgers has been injured. Also, he's a proven winner in college, which is what teams look at. Is the reason why he hasn't been in trade talks because of his overall lack of experience? He's 26 right now, so he is coming into his prime and now would be a good time for a team to trade him at a very reasonable price. Your thoughts?

Kyle in Tucson, Ariz.

A: The key is the price. It would not make sense for the Packers to give him away for a third-round choice or less. He's more valuable to them as a backup in case Rodgers does get hurt. Plus, they don't have a Flynn-quality quarterback behind him ready to step up. If the Packers can get a second-rounder or more, make the trade, but I don't get the feeling they will get that kind of an offer. The key to the reasonable price is how reasonable the offer is.

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Jody Gomez/US PresswireVince Young's runnng skills might make him a good fit with the Miami Dolphins.
Q: I hear that Minnesota is possibly interested in acquiring Donovan McNabb and there is a lot of talk about Arizona looking to trade for Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton, or even signing Marc Bulger, but I am not hearing anything about a possible destination for Vince Young. It's evident that Tennessee is going to release him, and while Young saw plenty of bad days as a Titan, I still believe he can flourish in the right system. Where do you see Vince landing after the lockout is over?

John in Naperville, Ill.

A: The Miami Dolphins make the most sense to me. They are a running team, and Young is a running quarterback. Figuring he might not get enough time to learn the offense and immediately take the starting job away from Chad Henne, the Dolphins can use him in the Wildcat formation and have him make some plays. If Henne struggles in the first couple of months, Young can step in and take over the offense.

Q: Is Charlie Whitehurst missing an opportunity by not holding practice sessions with the other Seahawks? While Matt Hasselbeck remains unsigned, surely it would be an opportunity for him to say "this is my team?" We all know the Hawks need the practice.

Greg in Portland, Ore.

A: Great point, Greg. One of the knocks on Whitehurst is how he hasn't taken control of an opportunity or a situation. There aren't a lot of Seahawks who live in Seattle during the offseason because of the drastic roster changes last season, but those who do live there are in touch with Hasselbeck, not Whitehurst, and Hasselbeck doesn't have a contract with the team. He's a free agent. Whitehurst rarely lit it up in practice. Outsiders think he could be the answer for the Seahawks. Insiders have their doubts.

Q: I am asking this question of many of you football analysts: How are teams going to sign their first-round draft picks? If this lockout goes into training camp and the regular season, how will they get the contracts done in time? Is it true teams can't speak to agents about these contracts until the lockout is over? If yes, and the lockout extends into training camp, then every draft pick will technically be a holdout. Do teams have a plan for this?

Justin in Huntsville, Ala.

A: Teams have a plan for everything, but they can't execute anything until they know the rules. Right now, there are no rules. You don't know if there is going to be a hard rookie pool or the old, soft rookie pool. A draft choice can't be a holdout until a CBA is reached and camps are set to open. The way things are going -- or not going -- on the labor front, football will be a holdout going into training camp.

Q: You mentioned in your previous mailbag that you expect the players to make a counter-offer to the league's last proposal, but how can they do that? The NFLPA is now a trade association and can't collectively bargain -- if they did they couldn't pursue some of their current lawsuits. So if you don't have a body that can collectively bargain, how do you get a new CBA?

Eric from Tennessee.

A: That's a technical question that is holding up talks between both sides, because owners want to deal with the players as a union in a collective bargaining session. Formalities aside, this is no different than the Reggie White lawsuit that eventually led to a CBA. Lawyers from both sides can talk settlement. They can make offers and counter-offers. If they reach a deal, the trade association could decide to re-certify. That would require a vote of the players. The CBA would be a settlement. However you call it, a contract is a contract.

Q: How about the possibilities of a big-name WR like Randy Moss or Terrell Owens landing in New Orleans? Hear me out on this one. I love the Saints' receiving corps and I know they've got a great one, but Devery Henderson is beginning to get old and is slowing down. He dropped a lot of good passes last year and is less involved in the offense. This leaves the Saints with a need (not glaring) at the deep threat position. I know that the Saints are a classy team and don't usually go for the loud mouths, and these two are kind of old, but let's look back. The Saints took chances on Jeremy Shockey, Anthony Hargrove and Shaun Rogers.

Kenneth in Boston

A: Bad fit. The Saints have enough offensive weapons. Adding an older receiver would cause more problems than it's worth. The Saints have good chemistry among their pass-catchers. They all know Drew Brees is going to go to the open receiver and doesn't feature one. Owens -- more than Moss -- would want to be featured and would cause problems if he wasn't. That's not happening in the Saints' offense.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer