There's still no telling when the lockout will halt, but many believe the NFL is a lot closer to the end than the beginning. Because of that, the world is zeroing in on a more steady diet of actual football news. Let's start that party right now with 20 NFL thoughts.
1. There are some surprising roster cuts every single year, but I wonder if there will be more this season because less players will be in great shape at the end of training camp.
2. Some players might slack off because they couldn't adhere to their teams' regimented offseason conditioning programs, including voluntary workouts, organized team activities and minicamp. Workouts and OTAs are voluntary, but minicamp (in mid-June) is mandatory.
3. If a player showed up to minicamp out of shape, he'd hear about it from his teammates and coaches, which would give him six or seven weeks of motivation to get in shape for training camp. Players won't have that buffer period this offseason, since it's expected they will head straight to training camp once the lockout concludes.
4. There's also a contingent of veterans who have said they won't work out to spite the owners. The thought process behind that is that they don't want the owners to think the lockout can extend until the last possible minute with the confidence that the players can report to training camp in shape.
5. Obviously, I'd be shocked if any players actually spent the last four months sitting on the couch and getting fat, but if their training isn't up to par, they'll be the ones losing out on cut-down day.
6. With that, former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress might be able to use the labor situation to his advantage. Burress is reportedly 15 pounds under weight, and he'll have to get in shape after spending two years in prison. But he's not as far behind, on a relative basis, than he would be if the league was already three months into its offseason program.
7. I don't believe Burress is a good fit for the Patriots, mostly because there are more suitable options on the market. As I've said before, I think Donte Stallworth could be the Pats' best option if they are enticed to add a wide receiver. Chad Ochocinco, Santonio Holmes and Mike Sims-Walker are intriguing possibilities, too.
8. The Patriots had some very positive attendance numbers last week at Boston College. They averaged 45 players per session, and the three workouts spanned nearly five total hours.
9. The Patriots didn't work on anything that will tangibly help them next season, but they did benefit from a camaraderie standpoint and said it was helpful to hear the playbook's terminology again.
10. Now that the players have departed to their offseason homes, they'll resume their prior workout schedules. That includes the 12-15 players who have been working out at a gym in Foxboro.
11. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who is one of the players working out with Jerod Mayo in Foxboro, said those workouts have been much more intense than the three-day session at BC.
"The workouts that we've been doing are much more intense in a sense of working out, like more workout-oriented, not like [at BC] just kind of running through some stuff, not too physical because you don't want anyone to get hurt," Ninkovich said. "You've kind of just got to shadow people, no contact and be smart about it. You can't be running around hitting people. We're not on a team, and there's no organized activity going on."
12. Like Ninkovich said, the two sets of workouts were completely different. The ones in Foxboro have had a football feel, but they're much more about conditioning. The ones in BC were about going through the motions and rekindling the team chemistry. Because of that, a good chunk of the Patriots were working out on their own early in the morning before attending the sessions at BC.
13. I wonder what BenJarvus Green-Ellis thought about Bill Belichick's decision to draft two running backs. After coming off a 1,000-yard season, Green-Ellis probably thought he was safely implanted as the team's No. 1 back — and for all intents and purposes, he still is — but the draft must have surprised him a little bit.
14. Green-Ellis has a strong work ethic, so I bet he'll use this as motivation to get even stronger for the 2011 season.
15. Speaking of running backs, it was a great sign to see Kevin Faulk at two of the workouts at BC. Faulk still wouldn't commit to his future, but there's no doubt in my mind he'll attempt to play in 2011.
16. Ninkovich was asked about tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was goofing around in front of him at the time.
"Rob is a decent player," Ninkovich said. "He's kind of short. He could be a couple inches taller. He's got zero pecs. He's got no abs."
17. Tom Brady held his second annual Best Buddies charity touch-football game Friday night. It was a fun time watching the game, especially since we're all so starved for some actual football at this point. Brady played quarterback for both teams, and the other players consisted of several Patriots, some of the kids in the Best Buddies program, a few celebrities and sponsors.
18. Wide receiver Julian Edelman was at the event, in addition to the workouts at BC. Edelman looks a lot more muscular right now than the last time I saw him in January.
19. Former Olympic track star Carl Lewis also played in the game, though he didn't perform very well. He dropped two straight passes and then completely misjudged an easy touchdown pass in the first quarter. It's not uncommon to think an Olympic track star should try out for an NFL team, but I think we found out why that doesn't happen.
20. Lewis also had one of the most shameful plays of the night. During a kickoff, he sprinted down the field and immediately touched down one of the Best Buddies. Ease up, Carl. It's not all about you.
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