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Bengals' Whitworth worried lockout will affect quality of NFL

The majority of NFL players with whom I've spoken say they have yet to reach the critical point for missed offseason workouts with their teams.

Late April and May are, they say, the time when the loss of minicamps and other organized team activity because of the lockout would be the most harmful to preparation for the season. Generally speaking, most players spend March and the early part of April working out on their own, usually somewhere other than where their team is based.

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But in light of comments that Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth made to *USA Today* on Friday, you have to wonder just how many players have bothered to maintain such a routine. The prospect of the labor dispute possibly dragging into late summer, Whitworth pointed out, might very well have become an obvious disincentive that could have a negative impact on the quality of play whenever the season begins.

"Guys are human beings," Whitworth said. "And if you tell guys, 'It doesn't look like you're doing anything until July or August,' guys will lose a lot of incentive to train and to get better. You will get a lot of guys who will say, 'We're not even going to play. I'm not going to work hard all the time.' "

It's hard to argue with his logic. Whitworth not only is a bright and thoughtful guy, he knows how his fellow players think. He knows they need a carrot, which is the goal of staying in the best possible physical condition for training camp, which, for most teams, open in late July and early August. Additionally, players who work out minus team supervision during the lockout do so at their own risk.

But it should be pointed out that Whitworth is the Bengals' NFL Players Association representative. It certainly would make sense for him to do his part to give owners yet another reason to at least be uncomfortable about a prolonged lockout while also trying to give the public more cause to oppose the idea of teams shutting down football business.

Therefore, one is advised to keep that in mind when it comes to this ominous warning from Whitworth: "You're going to ruin the chance for quality football. There will be more injuries and things that affect the game. Period."

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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