Mayock: Rookie QBs face uphill climb once lockout ends

A message from NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock to the NFL's rookie class of 2011 during these tough times: This is how it used to be.

"In 1982, when I was a rookie, this is what it was," Mayock said on Wednesday. "You basically showed up for training camp in late July. You didn't know your offense or defense; you had to do a complete install of the playbook."

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No doubt the lockout has hindered the initial development of all rookies, what with none of the usual offseason training activities or minicamps taking place since April's draft. That means rookies will have to learn on the fly once a labor agreement is reached and teams rush to start training camps.

With that likely scenario -- or worse, if a deal isn't reached relatively soon -- playing out, Mayock cautions rookie signal callers that they had better be ready to make the most of their practice repetitions. No position will feel the heat more than the quarterbacks.

"The quarterback position asks the most of a player mentally and intellectually," Mayock said. "So when you're talking about a compressed timeframe, then these young quarterbacks will get less reps and probably understand the reps they're getting a lot less than they would had they had any kind of significant minicamps heading in.

"However, having said that, the higher-drafted kids are going to get pushed as always, both mentally and physically. They're going to get a lot of quality reps."

It helps that many of the top-drafted quarterbacks -- including No. 1 pick Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder -- have held workouts with their teammates. But making the most of the reps and learning as they go when training camp begins will be of the utmost importance.

"This isn't really about the guys with the best football IQ," Mayock said. "It's more about what the opportunities are with each individual team, what the expectations are with each individual team, and then going back to quality reps and pushing as hard as you can.

"The bottom line is: I don't care where you were drafted. You better be the first guy in the building, and you better be the last to leave. If you're a rookie quarterback, you have no idea what you're going to get thrown at you."

Essentially, in terms of general expectations from fans, Mayock doesn't expect much to change for the top-flight quarterbacks. But how fair is it to maintain the same first-year expectations as recent rookie quarterbacks?

The simple answer is "not at all." The tough-love answer is "deal with it."

"It's a tall order to say any of those top quarterbacks are all of a sudden going to be Day One starters," Mayock said. "However, you know, sometimes you have to force feed and go with it. This is no different than the late 70s and early- to mid-80s. That's what happened to rookie quarterbacks. If they weren't sitting on the bench, it was about assimilating the information and getting better as the season went on."

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