Coaches expect locked-out players to stay fit, ready to go

NEW ORLEANS -- With 31 NFL head coaches speaking their minds at the league's annual meeting -- the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick didn't show up for the coaches' breakfast -- there was unanimity on one issue: They all expect their players to stay ready during the lockout.

"These are professionals who are dedicated to the game," new Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak said Tuesday. "They will stay in shape and be football ready when the call comes."

Nobody knows when that might be, but the coaches are relying on their veteran leaders to ensure no players are slacking off.

"That won't happen. This is their trade and livelihood," added Munchak, who was a player during the 1982 and 1987 player strikes. "Guys now back in Nashville will be working out on their own. They know how important it is to be in shape."

With a hearing set for April 6 as 10 players seek an injunction in U.S. District Court to block the lockout, and with no negotiations scheduled, the labor impasse could last a while. Players normally would report for offseason workouts now, mostly weight training and exercise. Team drills wouldn't come for several more weeks.

By mid-April, though, working on plays with teammates becomes important.

"I believe our players will take care of themselves," new Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "They'll want to be prepared for when we get rolling."

Rex Ryan looks forward to rockin' and rollin', too, although he's not keeping tabs on his guys.

"They're on their own," the New York Jets coach said. "It's not like you organize anything. Somebody said, 'Are they working out?' I have no idea. You don't know who's working out, who's not working out, all this stuff. But I'm confident that when our guys come back, they will be ready to roll."

Ryan and the other coaches cannot contact the players during the work stoppage. They simply must rely on their players' professionalism.

"If these guys don't take the initiative, I've got the wrong kind of football team to start with," Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "If they can't figure out where to work out and how much to work out, usually you've got the wrong guy to start with."

Added new Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson: "I think a pro football player knows what his duties are and what he needs to do to prepare himself to play. There's a lot being made right now about guys getting together to work out. Is there some good to that? There's no question there is. But most players right now are probably preparing their bodies to get ready for an offseason program, so I would think if you play in the National Football League, you're doing everything you can do get your bodies and minds right so you can be ready to go play."

Whenever that is.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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