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For those not drafted, an anxious wait

Steelers/NFL Videos

Monday, May 2, 2011

The first thing Dom DeCicco thought after he realized he wouldn't be selected in the NFL Draft: "What a horrible situation."

The former Thomas Jefferson and Pitt safety was among about a dozen players with local connections who weren't one of the 254 selected during this past weekend's draft, leaving them on the open market.

Problem is, because of the NFL lockout, teams are forbidden to contact undrafted free agents, let alone sign them, until the lockout is lifted and the league resumes its normal activities.

That could be in a couple days or a couple months.

"What a horrible time to have a lockout," said Elijah Fields, a former Pitt safety and Duquesne High School who finds himself in the same situation as DeCicco.

Until a lockout resolution is reached, players like DeCicco and Fields can only wait -- and hope.

"You have to hope that it ends so you have time to prepare the proper way," said fullback Henry Hynoski, who left Pitt a year early to test the NFL waters. "The only thing you can do is stay in shape and wait."

Making an NFL roster as a rookie free agent is tough enough, but if the lockout drags on, it might make it impossible.

Teams typically sign undrafted free agents moments after the draft. The players arrive at the facility the next day, participate in a three-day minicamp later in the week and attend organized team activities before reporting to training camp.

Now a rookie free agent's first exposure with a team might not come until training camp.

"The quicker this lockout is over, the better it is as free agent," DeCicco said. "If it works out like that, it is going to be a complete uphill climb. It would be really tough to make a team that way."

Teams were able to contact players during the draft. Nearly a dozen organizations were in touch with DeCicco and Hynoski and expressed interest in signing them to a free agent deal.

Until the lockout ends, they said they will dissect which team best suits them.

"It is usually that you just sign right away," DeCicco said. "Sometimes emotion can play in to it. The reality of it now is that I am going to a place that is going to be the best fit for me."

Hynoski, who said he was shocked he wasn't drafted, feels he will be able to adjust to the pro game quickly, even if there is an extended lockout.

"I think I can be thrown right in the mix and play," Hynoski said.

It's not that simple for Fields.

He was kicked off the Pitt team two years ago and didn't play football this past fall.

Fields would be grateful to have any chance, even if that means waiting a little longer.

"You just have to make the best of your opportunity with whatever chance you get," Fields said. "All I want is a chance. It doesn't matter where or when."




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