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Rookies left in lockout limbo

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, May 1, 2011

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — There wasn't much time to celebrate during Christian Ponder's first day as a Minnesota Viking.

The Florida State quarterback, drafted 12th to take over for Brett Favre, knew time was of the essence when he arrived at team headquarters Friday. He spent all day meeting with coaches and going over X's and O's while the lockout was temporarily lifted.

"We don't know how long this window will be open, so we have to take advantage of every moment and try to get him the information that we think he'll need to come back — whenever that is — with a working knowledge of what we're trying to accomplish," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said as Ponder was introduced.

The cram session wasn't unique. Rookies across the league scrambled to get in, meet coaches and pick up playbooks before the doors closed again.

"I'm ready as soon as this lockout is over," Chicago first-round pick Gabe Carimi said. "I can't wait to come and start playing. I'm sure everyone feels that way, too."

The lockout was restored Friday night after the owners were handed a legal victory by a federal appeals court. The labor fight threatens to rob this year's rookie class of precious preparation time to get them ready to make the leap to the NFL.

"It's back to how it had been before, so we pretty much can't pass anything out," Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "Once the draft is over, we are done talking until this thing is worked out."

Coaches are concerned about having enough time to get the youngsters ready to contribute. That is particularly true for quarterbacks who may play right away, including Ponder, Cam Newton in Carolina, Jake Locker in Tennessee, Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville and Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.

The uncertainty is making some of the rookies antsy.

"I'm just ready to get in and get to work," Dalton said. "With the whole lockout situation, I don't know what's going to happen. Once the chance comes, I'm ready to get in and get going."

Some players are pulling out all the stops to get up to speed. It was suggested to Denver Broncos second-round pick Rahim Moore during his introductory news conference that he contact first-round pick Von Miller to get a look at the Broncos' playbook.

"That would be a great idea," the UCLA safety said. "You know we would get to have some type of (introduction) to the team."

Ponder said he would start contacting his new teammates right away, hoping to forge a bond with some of them during the time off.

"It's tough, especially with the uncertainty," he said. "We have no idea what's going to happen, and I'm praying I'll be back here in two weeks for minicamp or whenever we're allowed."

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