With only two weeks left in the month of June, this has certainly not been the typical offseason. Mini-camp never happened and OTA's should just be reaching their conclusion. There is a thought that the resultant of the awkward offseason will be a less-than-top quality regular season in the fall, with players that are unprepared to play at their usual, high level of play.
Jason Garrison of Cincy Jungle echoed that sentiment saying:
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if the Steelers or the Ravens don't have a chance to practice as a team or even play in preseason games, that they're much more likely to have winning records than the Bengals do.
With that kind of mindset, there will be a belief that the 2011 season is a fluke and that successful teams capitalized on the lockout, rather than succeeding as teams do in normal offseasons. In effect, an asterisk would be placed in the minds offans when thinking about the 2011 season. An unnecessary one if you ask me.
Someone once asked Vic Ketchman what the purpose of the short, post-draft mini-camp was. His response was short and simple.
To teach rookies how to practice the NFL way.
The mini-camp's purpose is not to prepare players for the NFL regular season or even teach them the playbook. It's to teach them how to practice.
Additionally, the idea of OTAs is to keep players in shape and keep them prepared them physically throughout the entirety of the year. Preparation for game situations and drills to work on the subtle nuances of football are not the focus at OTAs. Top physical shape is the goal.
However, the NFL requires teams to take a long, six or seven week break from the practices before training camp finally begins in the end of July or beginning of August. During this time, teams hope that their players stay in the shape that they strived to acheive in OTAs. Many players, however, don't accomplish this and show up to training camp out of shape.
So let's flash foward to this offseason, where both mini-camps and OTAs have been missed and replaced instead with workouts ran by players instead of coaches. In these workouts, rookies have learned the way NFL veterans practice and those that have attended have worked to stay in shape. So what's different? Nothing yet.
The 2011 regular season has not been affected and as long as the lockout doesn't extend into the beginning of training camp, we will see the same level of play that we see every season. If the lockout is lifted any time in the next six or seven weeks, which appears as though it is closer to a likelihood than a possibility, then asterisks should not be in the mind of anyone when the season kicks off in September.