MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The NFL lockout has forced people from all corners of pro football into awkward, anxious situations this summer, with sports bar owners, season-ticket holders and team staff awaiting word of an agreement.
Undrafted free agents like former Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber are among the most affected.
After an up-and-down four years starting every game of his college career for the Gophers, Weber has been busy keeping his mind, arm and body in shape for the chance to land a spot on an NFL roster this fall, assuming the lockout ends in time to keep the regular season intact.
During a normal year, Weber would at least have a team — and a playbook — by now.
“All the free agents are in a gigantic pool. It’s going to be interesting to see where teams go, especially if the lockout doesn’t get settled this week or next week,” Weber said Thursday after a workout at his alma mater. “The closer you get to the season, I think, the less chance they’re going to take on an unproven rookie free agent quarterback. We’ll see. People ask me where I want to go. I do not care. Any city, any place. I do not care. I just want an opportunity.”
Weber added: “Being a free agent, I’m not going to get many reps. Those are going to go to the guys that got drafted. I know that. I know it’s going to be a struggle. But I’m trying to work as hard as I can so that when I do get an opportunity I can go out there and execute a play and give the coaches a reason to keep me on the team.”
Drafted rookies, even in the late rounds, have the benefit of signing bonuses and stature. Plus, many of them were able to meet with their coaches and pick up a playbook in April while the lockout was temporarily lifted by a court order.
Not only will undrafted players like Weber have less time to prove their worth, they’ll have less time to absorb a team’s scheme and grasp the terminology.
“It’s going to be really hard for everybody in Adam’s situation,” said Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Matt Spaeth, a friend of Weber’s and a fellow former Gophers player. “They would’ve been practicing. They would’ve been meeting with coaches. They would’ve been figuring stuff out. The coaches would’ve been getting to know them and what they can do. With this lockout they’re going to get an opportunity, but they’re not going to get much of an opportunity. It’s going to be training camp, and everything’s going to be thrown at them. It’s not an easy thing. You don’t just pick it up and learn the offense and feel comfortable.”
Weber has been learning as much as he can from pros like Spaeth and Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a Minneapolis native who has been organizing offseason workouts in his hometown for the past few years.
“I believe he’s got a lot of ability. I just hope that the lockout ends so he can find himself a good home, get acclimated to the offense and get the ball rolling,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s a good kid, and I really want to see him do well.”
Weber does have the ability to adapt. In five seasons with the Gophers, including his redshirt year, coaching changes forced him to learn four different offensive systems.
“Regardless of how many times I’ve had to do it in college, I think doing it at the next level is going to be difficult,” Weber said.
So he’s trying to stay as ready as possible, poised to soon hustle off to some new place if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached and a team offers him a contract. Though he’s enjoyed some down time, taking week-long vacations have been out of the question due to the uncertainty of the start of the new league year.
“For the past probably month and a half, I’ve heard it’s about a week away. So with that mindset, it’s been tough,” Weber said. “I know I’ve had some nice time off, but I’ve also had time to get in shape. I feel like I’m ready to go, and I’m ready at a moment’s notice.”
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