Vince Wilfork Believes Lockout Will Create a Change in Patriots Draft Philosophy and 19 Other NFL Thoughts

Vince Wilfork Believes Lockout Will Create a Change in Patriots Draft Philosophy and 19 Other NFL Thoughts It’s only Hump Day, and this is already shaping up to be the busiest week of the NFL offseason. More so, with the lockout blockout and the draft on the horizon, it’s amazing to think about the impact this week will have on the future of the league.

This edition of the Two-Minute Drill touches on both subjects and a whole lot more, including a couple of very interesting quotes — one about the Jets and another about the general uselessness of the annual rookie symposium.

1. NFLPA executive Pete Kendall is one of the most knowledgeable sources when it comes to the labor negotiations, and I caught up with him Tuesday. My opinion for the last month was the players would need to win the owners’ injunction appeal in order for there to be a full regular season in 2011. If the owners win the appeal, the only chance for a full season would come through negotiations for a new CBA, and the two sides are simply too far apart right now to believe that can happen. Plus, the owners will have every ounce of leverage if they win the appeal, so they’ll have little need to back down from their stringent CBA demands.

2. I asked Kendall about that, and here was his response: “At this point, any conversation or any discussions have to be under the framework of a settlement of a lawsuit. There is no collective bargaining going on, and I don’t know if in fact there ever will be again. The union announced they’re no longer a collective-bargaining unit for the players. So we’ll see how this process plays itself out. There was court-supervised mediation that allowed for a conversation to take place between the two parties, and perhaps that will be the forum going forward.”

3. A couple things stand out there. First, Kendall said he doesn’t know if there will ever be collective bargaining again, which means he doesn’t know if the NFLPA will ever get back together. That’s probably a stretch on Kendall’s part, but it’s very interesting to hear him say it’s even possible.

4. Next, Kendall couldn’t even entertain the thought of collectively bargaining because it would conflict with the purpose of dissolving the union, which was for the players to try their hand in court. Therefore, if the owners win the appeal, the players’ next course of action will likely be reforming the union and heading back to collective bargaining. But for now, they can’t admit that because it would crush their stance in court.

5. It’s all speculation at this point, but the players’ side is definitely less confident about winning the owners’ injunction appeal than they were about winning the preliminary injunction ruling. Kendall, though, thinks Judge Susan Nelson‘s 89-page court ruling was worded so heavily in the players’ favor that it might be more difficult for the Eighth Circuit to rule in favor of the owners. “She wrote a very tightly worded decision, and it may be difficult to overturn on an appeal,” Kendall said. “But we’ll have to wait and see.”

6. The Patriots have a reputation for not dealing with agent Tom Condon and his agency, CAA, and that resulted from some rocky negotiations with tight end Ben Watson. The Patriots haven’t drafted a CAA client since, and that’s important to note because Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo, Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt and BC linebacker Mark Herzlich are all CAA products, and all three would be good fits in New England.

7. I asked around the league to find out if it was common for teams to avoid certain players due to their agents and heard stories about several teams that follow the same pattern. One league source said, “I know for a fact the Jets do it.”

8. Obviously, a rookie scale could change that approach, but there’s still no certainty that it will be implemented for this draft class. Plus, teams know that agent could still be in place for their second contract.

9. How crazy are these NFL draft rumors? Within the last few days, John Elway told reporters the Broncos haven’t received a single call about their second overall pick. On Tuesday, NFL Network cited several general managers who believed the Redskins would move up to No. 2 to draft Blaine Gabbert. Obviously, this stuff can happen very quickly, but I find it extremely hard to believe Elway on this one.

10. Had a good talk with Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer on Tuesday, and I asked him what he thought about the Pats working out quarterbacks Jake Locker (a near-certain first-rounder) and Ryan Mallett (a likely second-rounder who has a slight chance to go in the first round). Hoyer was candid with his response: “It’s a business. That’s why you’ve got to stay ahead of the game and keep working out, and whatever they decide to do, I’m comfortable with it. There’s always going to be some sort of competition, so I just assume every year there’s going to be a new guy coming in. I’ll just work hard to stay ahead of that.”

11. Hoyer has already beaten out third-round pick Kevin O’Connell, Matt Gutierrez and Zac Robinson, among others, and I think Hoyer has a little bit of Tom Brady‘s attitude in him. As in, Hoyer won’t let someone come in and outwork him for his own job. If the Patriots used a high-round pick on a quarterback, it might turn into one of the most fun battles to watch in training camp.

12. The general consensus insists the Panthers will take Cam Newton with the No. 1 pick, but there’s as much uncertainty this close to the draft as there has been in recent memory. One major contributor to the guess work: The Panthers can’t negotiate with their potential picks, which has become a common tactic for teams that want to make sure they don’t take a guy who could hold out.

13. Vince Wilfork surprisingly mentioned Tuesday that he could get used to retirement. Though his 2011 season won’t be in jeopardy, Wilfork did sound sincere with his explanation. He said he’s been blessed with good health and doesn’t want to wind up like the many players who live in pain after their careers. Wilfork is a very strong family man who lost both of his parents at a young age, so I really believe that he values a high quality of life after his career.

14. In an unrelated note, Wilfork was asked if he thought the labor negotiations could affect the relationships between players and owners when the work stoppage comes to a conclusion. “I hope no one holds a grudge against anyone,” Wilfork said. “When you resume, you’re a team.”

15. Patriots left tackle Matt Light held a charity event Tuesday to benefit his foundation, which is geared toward helping young kids reach their potential through outdoor activities. He held a breakfast at the Liberty Hotel in Boston to teach fans about the intricacies of the lockout and labor negotiations.

“Really, the only reason that we do this is to raise money for the foundation, so the one thing I don’t want to lose sight of is we do some amazing things with the kids in our programs,” Light said. “I’ve been very proud of all the people that have supported us and the people that represent us in this room. 

“It’s been a real treat for me to be a part of it, to have fun seeing our programs grow and see the work that we do all unfold in front of me. From my heart, this means a lot to me.”

16. The trials and tribulations of the league’s quest for an 18-game regular season have been a very popular storyline for at least a year. Light thinks the 18-game proposal is off the table at this point, and Wilfork said, “I haven’t met one player that has vouched for it.” 

17. Of course, the players don’t want 18 games, but everything I’ve heard — which includes comments from a player representative — suggests the players would accept the 18-game proposal if the owners conceded to prorated salary hikes and increased health benefits and pension plans. The owners have shown very little willingness to work with those demands.

18. Wilfork touched on the change in draft philosophy during this unique offseason, but he is excited about the Patriots’ prospects. “It’s going to be kind of different this year,” he said. “We’ve always gone with the best player available in the past, but with this year and free agency all screwed up, we’ve got to draft on needs. We need somebody who will be able to come in and help us right away. With that being said, there are a couple things I think that can help us as a ball club, especially as a defense. There’s a couple positions that I think we can go and attack and get to in the draft. With us having two picks in the first and another two in the second, I think we’ll have a real good draft class. I think we’ll do real well in the draft.”

19. It was an interesting experience while writing my “Tales From the Broke” feature, hearing about the stories of players who made poor financial decisions and lost loads of money as a result. By the way, could you imagine being an unemployed 20-something who walks into a bank and lands a $500,000 line of credit? Amazing stuff.

20. One note I didn’t use in the feature: I asked an agent if he was concerned that the lockout might prevent his clients from attending the rookie symposium, where they learn about life in the NFL and these financial horror stories. Let’s just say I got a very, very passionate “no.”

“Honestly, that’s not even a thought in my mind,” the agent said. “I speak to my clients every single day. They’re going to learn a whole lot more from me than they’ll learn from anything at a conference. Honestly, out of everything I’m worried about, that’s reason No. 476.”

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