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Tomlin not fazed by NFL lockout

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By Scott Brown
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NEW ORLEANS — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has been so immersed in draft preparation he has hardly noticed that the NFL is mired in a work stoppage.

That is what Tomlin professed Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. And it may only be part exaggeration.

The first group of Steelers players wasn't scheduled to report for offseason training until last week — and those were the players that received limited snaps last season or didn't suit up at all.

"Couple that with the fact that I've been on the road," Tomlin said of the offseason, "and it hasn't been very different at all."

Tomlin, like a lot of coaches, won't really be impacted by the labor impasse — and the quiet that has pervaded teams' headquarters since owners locked out players almost two weeks ago — unless it goes past April.

May and June are when teams hold most of their offseason practices, and coaches that would otherwise be antsy won't have film of college players to break down, Pro Day workouts to attend or visits from prospects to host.

The question, with owners and players set to battle in court after they failed to reach a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, is what coaches will do after the draft.

It will be held April 28-30, and there will be no NFL business conducted after that until a new CBA is in place.

"If it drags too long, then you get anxious," first-year Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak said of the lockout. "I'm sure all of the teams will be that way because even if you're not a head coach, you still have new ideas. If you didn't win the Super Bowl, you're making changes or thinking of different ways to do things."

"At some point we'll get this resolved," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "All 32 teams are dealing with the same issue."

True, but not all are dealing with the same set of circumstances.

Six teams, including the Browns and Titans, have new head coaches. Two more teams, the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, removed the interim title from head coaches that started last season as assistants.

Those coaches, like all others, have not been allowed to talk to their players since March 11. Plans of putting their imprint on their respective teams and installing new schemes will be compromised if the offseason is lost to the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.

Compare that with the Steelers, who only lost one assistant coach (defensive backs coach Ray Horton) during the offseason and are led by experienced players that know how to prepare for a season.

"We have a veteran-laden group with really good leadership," Tomlin said. "Whatever adjustments that we have to make (because of the lockout) will have to be made by all parties involved so the playing field will be very level."

Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell has used some of the time he would be spending on his players to evaluate his staff and himself.

Caldwell said that is something he does every offseason but has been extra meticulous this year.

"We're working on professional development, just trying to make sure that we stay sharp and fresh in terms of all drill work and teaching, examining every single thing that we do," Caldwell said. "Challenge everybody. That's kind of my motto right now."

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