NFL lockout increases importance of workouts

Former NFL player Cris Carter talks to Kansas City Cheifs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe during a training camp on July 8, 2010 at Bierman Field.

Joseph Michaud-Scorza, Daily File Photo

Former NFL player Cris Carter talks to Kansas City Cheifs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe during a training camp on July 8, 2010 at Bierman Field.

Samuel Gordon

For the third year in a row, âÄúCamp FitzgeraldâÄù is back on the University of Minnesota campus. Its latest camper: former Gophers quarterback Adam Weber.

Weber has participated in workouts led by the Arizona Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald along with a contingent of NFL players at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Practice Facility in recent weeks amid the NFL Lockout.

With the lockout âÄî which reached its 112th day Tuesday âÄî canceling all organized team activities and mini-camps, Fitzgerald and company have been training with speed and agility specialist Bill Welle to stay in shape.

âÄúThis year especially [workouts] are critical. ItâÄôs critical that guys are doing something thatâÄôs organized, that has a routine,âÄù Welle said.

 âÄúThis year they have no guidance. They have no direction, they have no supervision. Doing what weâÄôre doing, weâÄôre able to at least give them some structure, give them some sort of order.âÄù

Welle, who has worked in Minnesota for the last eight years, has trained Fitzgerald since the receiver was 16. In that time, theyâÄôve worked with Cris CarterâÄôs FAST program, a speed and strength conditioning regimen, in Boca Raton, Fla.

âÄú[Larry] brought about four guys with him. Four turned into eight, and eight turned into 30. We could have as many as 50 or 60 guys.âÄù

One of those guys, New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, said heâÄôs found the camp beneficial.

âÄúItâÄôs a good chance to get competitive reps against receivers, defensive backs, quality reps you donâÄôt get unless you have those camps,âÄù Jenkins said. âÄúThis year is all the more important because we missed out on all of those reps.âÄù

Jenkins said late June and July is usually a time without team activities, and players are given time off.

With the lockout in place, working out during a time where activities arenâÄôt typically occurring anyway could prove to be advantageous.

âÄú[WhoâÄôs in shape is] going to show. ThereâÄôs not going to be a way to hide it. YouâÄôre going to be able to tell the guys who prepare and guys who just sat at home,âÄù Jenkins said.

Players participating have also received tutelage from former NFL receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, who recently retired after nearly 20 years of service.

Camp Fitzgerald and its participants have been among the first athletes to work out the newly renovated practice field, and the feedback has been positive.

âÄúThe guys love it, absolutely love the renovation,âÄù Welle said. âÄúThey actually really like this turf, which a lot of guys donâÄôt say that they like turf. This turf has turned out really well.âÄù

Jenkins echoed WelleâÄôs sentiments.

âÄúTheyâÄôre really nice. The first year we were working out at the new stadium. They showed us the locker room and the facilities. ItâÄôs definitely top of the line,âÄù Jenkins said.

ESPN.com reported Tuesday that negotiations aimed at ending the lockout resumed between the NFL and its players in New York.

That report was met with a class-action complaint by NFL retirees against the owners claiming that the organization representing the players is âÄúconspiring to depress the amounts of pension and disability benefits to be paid to former NFL players in order to maximize the salaries and benefits to current NFL players.âÄù

Training camps have historically opened near the end of July, and the first preseason game is scheduled for Aug. 7 between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams.

It is becoming increasingly likely that an agreement may not be reached in time to initiate team workouts, camps and games as scheduled.