ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The compact training camps and abridged free-agency period are challenges for everyone. They could prove doubly difficult for the eight NFL teams with new head coaches, who have to install their schemes on the fly and get their first real look at their rosters after the 136-day lockout.
In many ways, those eight franchises are behind the proverbial 8-ball, but they all insist they're in much the same situation as everyone else navigating the free agency fire drill and training camp cramming sessions.
Two of the new coaches -- Dallas' Jason Garrett and Minnesota's Leslie Frazier -- shed their interim titles this offseason and might have gotten a little bit of a head-start. Two more teams promoted assistants -- Hue Jackson in Oakland and Mike Munchak in Tennessee -- so they also have some continuity.
They simply didn't have the experienced rosters, established staffs and entrenched systems, so they were left to work out in a more rudimentary, haphazard fashion with pockets of players getting together to lift, run, stretch and decipher the circulating playbooks.
He's lost but certainly not alone.
Teams might decide to hold back their veterans when preseason games begin, especially the free-agent additions, who aren't allowed to practice with their new teams until next Thursday.
That could make for some ugly football early on.
Harbaugh said earlier this week he was excited to finally meet his players: "I can't tell you how good it's going to be having those guys in the building, face to face, knee to knee, smelling their breath, just getting to know them, let them get to know me," he said.
With all the turnover going on across the league, the new coaches don't think they're at quite the disadvantage one might think.
"Something I think is important to remember is when you start a new year it's a new football team," Garrett said. "The dynamics are different, the chemistry is different. You have to develop those things."
That goes for everyone.
"It was a different offseason," Garrett said. "We didn't have our OTAs and minicamps and we haven't seen our players since the first week in March. So each of us has to adjust accordingly."
Still, some are lamenting the lockout's detrimental effect.
"You look at any team across the league, I think we're one of the few that needs every ounce of time that we can get," Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said. "That's no excuse. We're not trying to find excuses, but with a new offense, a new defense, new systems on both sides of the ball, we need time."
Time isn't on anybody's side.
"That's the way it is. There is nothing that we can do about that so we're not going to make excuses," Rivera said. "Those are the facts of the NFL."
Coaches, new or not, won't get a great feel for their teams until the veteran free agents start practicing Thursday, with just a few practices to spare before the preseason games begin.
While they might not be in "football shape," some players say they're readier than ever for training camp.
"We've spent a lot of time this summer working together," McCoy said. "We've done what we can do, we've worked hard ... Now, it's time to get a little coaching."
Or, in some cases, a lot.
Like new teachers greeting students back to school from summer vacation, many coaches are putting faces to names right now.
"It's a learning curve for everybody," Vickerson said. "If you knew it from last year, you still have to refresh it in your mind. If you're in college, coming in as a rookie, you still have to learn the schemes.
"It's more classroom time now anyway, with the two-a-days eliminated, a lot of walk-throughs. This learning curve will be cured real fast."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press