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Contingency Plans

Players head into the unknown of offseason without new CBA


The Cardinals raise their hands in solidarity as a union gesture before the season-opening game in St. Louis against the Rams.

Lyle Sendlein likes the offseason, coming to the Cards' facility and training with strength and conditioning coach John Lott.

The center also knows that would be curtailed this offseason.

As the players wrapped up their season, they entered unknown territory. The collective bargaining agreement between the players and the NFL owners expires March 4, the same day the contracts of Sendlein and hundreds of other free-agents-to-be expire.

Without a new agreement by then, a lockout is imminent – meaning exactly what it sounds like. Not only will free agency be delayed, but the players will be locked out. They won't be able to come to team facilities. No working out. No organized team activities, no minicamp.

"I just think everyone will have to have a backup plan for working out," Sendlein said.  "It's our job. If you're not going to be working out you might as well not come to camp. If you're not doing something, somebody else is. That's how I think of it."

Even if the labor problems don't eat into games, it could play havoc on preparing for 2011.

"That's nothing we can control," safety Adrian Wilson said. "We just have to do what we can in the offseason to make sure we get better regardless of what is going on with the labor."

Without offseason work, the growth of a player like quarterback John Skelton will be stunted (not to mention many other young players). Coach Ken Whisenhunt also noted that any team undergoing changes in the coaching staff – with the Cardinals or someplace else – might only have a short time frame to install anything new.

On a more basic level comes the working out and staying in shape. Already some players can be challenged when they don't have Lott pushing them.

"This year is going to present a ton of opportunities for guys who in my mind do things the right way," running back Jason Wright said. "It will take a lot of perseverance and personal dedication to get through an entire offseason working out on your own and being ready in game shape."

Safety Kerry Rhodes said despite the lockout possibility being well-documented, most players aren't thinking much about it. At one point last week, a couple of players called a reporter over to confirm they indeed wouldn't be able to work out at the facility.

Players who are rehabbing from injury who normally do it at the facility also will have to find alternative means.

"I kind of wish the (CBA) would have been done," Sendlein said. "But there is a whole business side to this I'm not sure about yet. I am sure it'll be a learning experience for me."

The hope remains that an agreement can be reached. Rhodes said he didn't want to see the league ruin the relationship it has with the fan base. Both the league and the union, however, have made plans to prepare for a work stoppage. Players have been told to save their money.

And now, they wait to see what happens.

"It's such a mystery," guard Alan Faneca said, "how it will play out."

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