Moreover, for the five players the Green Bay Packers selected in the sixth and seventh rounds of last month's draft, their battle just to get on the 53-man roster is getting tougher with every day.
"For these rookies not to be with an NFL club through May 16, when you normally can bring them in and have a rookie orientation and just teach them the ropes, teach them the language and try to make the anxiety that any individual goes through when they go on to a new city and just go through an orientation and teach them the offense, defense and get them familiar with what you're doing, now that's all been eliminated," coach Mike McCarthy said on the "SiriusXM Blitz" this week.
"If this thing goes into training camp, I think we have to be realistic (about) the fact that you're talking about how much these rookies are going to contribute. There are going to be some real tough decisions when you cut to 53. I think it's going to be a real challenge for everybody around the National Football League."
But the challenge will be bigger in Green Bay, even with general manager Ted Thompson's track record of turning over the roster and keeping his draft picks on the team. Just look at his track record after restocking a depleted roster upon his arrival. In 2010 — on a team that had won 11 games and made the playoffs the year before — all seven draft picks made the team and contributed. In 2009, seven of the eight made the team. In 2008, seven of nine made the team (one who didn't was Brett Swain, who has become a contributor). In 2007, nine of the 11 picks made the team.
The bottom of the current Packers roster, however, is undeniably strong, with the 53-man Super Bowl roster fortified by the return of the injured-reserve contingent. Those players know the playbook and how to execute it. They've gone though the training regimen, from lifting weights to eating properly. They know what it takes to be a professional on a daily basis — not just when at the stadium.
That's why losing the rookie orientation camp was such a major blow. The draft picks and undrafted rookies could get their first taste of all of those things before being thrown in with the veterans a week later for organized team activities.
Making matters worse, agents and teams can't begin contract negotiations until the labor situation is squared away. If that happens just in time for the start of training camp, then instead of maybe the first-round selection being the only draft pick missing on the first day of camp, perhaps all 10 draft picks will be absent. When every practice is so precious in light of the missed time in May and June, that's just another obstacle standing in front of guys like tight end Ryan Taylor or outside linebacker Ricky Elmore, who were selected at positions with quality depth.
So, the waiting game continues, with a draft class months in the making off-limits to the coaches for the foreseeable future.
"I think people understand there's really not a lot they can do about it," team President Mark Murphy said at the Tailgate Tour when asked if the coaches are getting restless to get their mitts on the rookies. "I think everybody involved with it hopes that we can get it resolved sooner rather than later."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.