Last year’s rookies would be hurt most by lockout

If you had asked me a couple months ago which group of NFL players I thought would be most affected by a possible lockout, I would have said the 2011 rookie class.

If there is a work stoppage, the rookies won’t get to talk to their new coaches at all during the lockout, they won’t get a chance to study their playbooks, and they’ll miss out on valuable chances to get acclimated to the pro football life during OTAs and minicamps, if those sessions are missed.

All those factors left me pretty confident in my thinking that incoming rookies would suffer the greatest setback if the owners and players’ union are unable to reach terms on a new CBA before Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline.

I no longer think that way.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome says that it won’t be the 2011 rookie class, but rather the 2010 class, which would suffer the most if there is a lockout. And when Newsome speaks, I listen.

“This is where (the 2010 rookies) get the opportunity - would have had the opportunity - to start from March to go all the way to Game 1 to work with coaches, work with strength coaches and get themselves better and become better football players,” Newsome said. “So, that draft class could not be as good as it could potentially be if there is a work stoppage.”

What Newsome says makes sense. As I wrote yesterday, instead of getting to spend the offseason at Ravens headquarters getting into better shape, defensive tackle Terrence Cody - a 2010 second-round pick - will now have to do that work on his own.

Other 2010 rookies, like tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta and wide receiver David Reed, won’t get a chance to work with their positional coaches and try and improve on last season’s successes.

(Insert your joke about the quality of the Ravens’ 2010 draft class here.)

And second-round linebacker Sergio Kindle and sixth-round offensive tackle Ramon Harewood won’t be able to rehab injuries and work with team doctors at the Ravens’ facilities in Owings Mills.

Many people in the NFL believe that a player can make giant improvements between his rookie and sophomore seasons if he puts in the time and effort during the offseason.

The Ravens’ 2010 draft picks will still have the opportunity to train hard and get into shape, but if there’s a lockout, they’ll miss out on countless hours of coaching and instruction. That’s time that they’ll never get back, and it could stunt their growth, so to speak, entering next season.

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