Here’s one way to pass the time during a lockout

Come midnight tonight, barring a shocking - and I mean shocking - last-minute agreement between NFL owners and the players’ union, we’ll have a lockout on our hands.

Teams will close their doors, players will not be allowed inside, and until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, all things NFL with the exception of the draft will be put on hold.

It’s a sad day in the world of professional football, and I’ll have more on the lockout details a little bit later.

Once the lockout does begin (I’m telling you, get rid of any hope of a dramatic late resolution; it ain’t happening), what will NFL players do with their time? We already know they can’t train at team headquarters. They certainly can’t talk with coaches or take part in team-organized practices.

Well, one guy has a plan in place. Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski will trade in his shoulder pads for a pair of boxing gloves.

Yup. Zbikowski, who has extensive boxing experience, is set to fight a four-round bout as a cruiserweight on the undercard of the March 12 event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. His opponent has not yet been determined.

You might ask why the Ravens would allow Zbikowski to take part in something which presents such an injury risk. The answer is they have no say in the matter.

Zbikowski is a restricted free agent, meaning he’s not currently under contract. Even if he was, once the lockout begins, the Ravens will not be able to stop him from heading into the ring.

Now, as some of you might know, this won’t be the first time that Zbikowski has stepped between the ropes. Not even close. Zbikowski was a Golden Gloves boxer as a kid, has fought 90 times as an amateur (compiling a 75-15 record), and won his only professional fight by technical knockout. That came back in 2006 prior to his senior season at Notre Dame.

How dominant was Zbikowski that night at Madison Square Garden? It took him just 49 seconds to knock out his clearly overmatched opponent.

If you haven’t seen the fight, or if you just want to be reminded of how much of a beast Zbikowski is, you can find video of the fight right here. Jump to the 9:50 mark if you can’t waste your entire work morning watching the introductions and pre-fight chatter.

Early on in the 2010 season, I had a brief talk with Zbikowski about his boxing career, and we discussed that fight at Madison Square Garden. He told me it was one of the biggest thrills of his life, and he really appreciated Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis being cool enough to let him participate in the event despite the fact that he was on scholarship to play football.

I asked Zbikowski if he thought he’d ever fight again as a professional. He cracked a smile and said that while the Ravens wouldn’t let him fight while he was under contract, he’d put the gloves on again at some point.

“It’ll happen someday,” he said.

That day, it turns out, is a week from Saturday. The fight will keep Zbikowski busy during the lockout, and hey, it’ll give us something at least partially football-related to watch as well.

What are your thoughts on Zbikowski getting back into boxing while in the middle of his time with the Ravens? Do you love the idea and can’t wait to see him fight next weekend, or are you worried that he’ll get injured and put his football career at risk?

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