x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

NFL players are glad to be back in the workplace

Players from across the National Football League spoke of their relief that they could return to training again now the lockout was over.

Michael Vick will train with the Philadelphia Eagles despite not having signed a new contract.
Michael Vick will train with the Philadelphia Eagles despite not having signed a new contract.

A big green and white sign greeted Mark Sanchez as he drove up to the New York Jets' training facility for the first time in months. And it was a pleasant sight.

"Welcome Back!" it blared, followed by "Here Come The Jets."

"It was wonderful," Sanchez, the quarterback, said with a big smile. "Now we're back and we can start playing, so it's good."

The gates were up, facilities were open all around the league and NFL players finally went to work again on Tuesday.

Now, they need to get ready for the season in a hurry.

"It's good to be back, get everything over with and just come back and feel welcome again," Brett Swain, of the Green Bay Packers, the Super Bowl champions, said. "Get back in the roll of things and get camp started."

After a lockout that lasted four months ended on Monday with an agreement between the NFL and the players, the teams' facilities were buzzing with activity.

During the lockout, the Tennessee Titans had a chain around their closed front gate to keep players out. That chain was gone and the gate wide open as the rookie quarterback Jake Locker, the No 8 pick overall in April, and fellow quarterbacks Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff were the first to arrive.

"It is nice to drive by and not have the lock on the gate and actually get a friendly smile when you come in here," Michael Roos, the left tackle, said.

Players all around the league were allowed back in to meet with coaches, work out, take physicals and receive playbooks - among other things.

"I came for the free lunch," said Anthony Armstrong, the Washington Redskins receiver.

The teams were already starting a feeding frenzy on their drafted players and undrafted free agents, and were allowed to start negotiating with free agents in what will likely be a flurry of activity the league has never seen.

Players such as Nnamdi Asomugha, the Oakland Raiders cornerback, and Santonio Holmes will soon find out where they are going - or staying - as free agency began.

"With this whole free agency opening up, it's going to be crazy," John Beck, the Redskins quarterback, said at the team's facility in Ashburn. "Our team's going to look different."

The Redskins have several free agents to address this summer, including Santana Moss, Rex Grossman, Carlos Rogers and Rocky McIntosh. And there is also the murky statuses of Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth to deal with.

The Jets and Mike Tannenbaum, the general manager, have 16 players who are unrestricted free agents, including Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie and Brad Smith.

"It would be interesting just to get a camera in [Tannenbaum's office] and see how crazy it could be," Nick Mangold, the centre, said.

Teams were also greeting players by saying goodbye, at least for now.

The New York Giants have told Shaun O'Hara, the centre and player representative, and the guard, Rich Seubert, that they will be released.

At Cowboys' camp in Irving, Texas, Dallas are set to release several high-priced players, including the running back Marion Barber, the receiver Roy Williams, the right guard Leonard Davis and the kicker Kris Brown.

The Baltimore Ravens told Willis McGahee, the running back, Todd Heap, the former Pro Bowl tight end, Derrick Mason, the wide receiver, and Kelly Gregg, the nose guard, they will be cut.

"It's just the reality of the salary cap," John Harbaugh, the Ravens coach, said."It's the situation we're in now."

In Philadelphia, Michael Vick was one of the first to arrive at the Eagles headquarters and said he is ready to report to training camp, even without a new contract.

"Everything happens when it's supposed to," he said. "I put that in the hands of God and this organisation to make it happen."

But, he suggested DeSean Jackson could hold out because the two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver is unhappy with his deal.

Kevin Kolb, the back-up quarterback, did not attend the voluntary workout on Tuesday, and is on the trading block.

In Cincinnati, Mike Brown, the Bengals owner, said he would not trade the quarterback Carson Palmer, who wants to leave despite having four years left on his contract. Palmer told the team in January that he would retire if he is not traded, and Brown said the team will move on without their franchise quarterback.

"I honestly like Carson Palmer," Brown said. "He was a splendid player for us. "He's a good person. I wish him well. And he is retired. That is his choice. ... I'm not expecting him to be back."

The San Diego Chargers will have their big wide receiver back in camp as Vincent Jackson will sign his non-exclusive franchise tag tomorrow as soon as he is allowed to do so, according to his agent Neil Schwartz.

While most teams' rosters are nowhere close to looking the way they will be even at this time next week, Tuesday was all about getting back to football, both for the teams and the players.

"I've been here for the past week," Wes Welker, the Patriots wide receiver, said at team headquarters in Foxborough, "driving around here and finding a place to work out and doing all that stuff I don't have to worry about anymore."