If lockout drags on, don't expect many impact rookies

Well, hey there.

First of all, my apologies for the lack of posts the last few days; it's been pretty busy around the MASN offices this week with MLB opening day approaching, and I've had minimal time to focus on the little football news that we've had going on.

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There hasn't exactly been a ton of NFL action lately with the lockout in full swing, but now that we're less than a month away from the NFL Draft, we should have more to talk about when it comes to prospects and needs that the Ravens will look to address.

I hope to have plenty on those topics in the coming days and weeks.

When it comes to the lockout, I've already written how the players taken in this year's draft will be impacted by the work stoppage as soon as they're selected. But looking further down the road, assuming games are actually played in 2011, the lockout could have a significant effect on the quality of these players' rookie seasons.

Usually, you see around, oh, 10-15 players that make a major impact on their teams during their rookie season, and then a host of guys that are able to work their way into starting lineups and contribute on close to an every-down basis.

The Ravens didn't have any of those impact rookies last season (make a Sergio Kindle or Terrence Cody joke, I know you want to), but they have in previous years. Terrell Suggs had a big rookie year. So did Haloti Ngata, Michael Oher, Ben Grubbs, Joe Flacco and a number of others.

If the lockout drags on deep into the summer - and let's certainly hope it doesn't - the number of rookies that we see stepping into the lineup and contributing on a consistent basis might dramatically decrease.

Rookies need OTAs, minicamps and training camp to get adjusted and help make the transition to the NFL.

They need time to learn playbooks and get comfortable in the system from an X's and O's standpoint, but beyond that, they have to adjust to a new level of play, get comfortable with their teammates and coaches, and get used to the 24/7 nature of the professional football lifestyle.

The four months between the draft and the start of the regular season usually allow the NFL's newest members time to get acclimated in those areas. They can get up to speed in the off-field aspects, and can adjust to the increased "speed of the game" on the field.

Every day that the players are locked out after the draft is a day that the rookies miss out on, and if the collective bargaining dispute lasts into July or August, rookies will really be at a major disadvantage. They'll enter the season less prepared than any rookie class before them, and will have to pick up things on the fly as actual games are being played.

While some rookies might still be able to thrive because of their athletic ability (some pure pass-rushers, for example, could still just stick their hand in the dirt and get after the quarterback), those who need more time learning the schematic elements (Cam Newton, anyone?) could lag behind.

That's why we might not see as many impact rookies this year as we have in the past. Teams might not be able to count on immediate contributions from their 2011 draft class, and the veterans could have to carry more of the weight than in the past.

There are a ton of reasons why the lockout will hurt the NFL on-field product, but we can add this one to the list.

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