BRADENTON — With former college stars currently using large-scale facilities around the nation to prepare for their NFL careers, they may actually just be warming those sites up for what could be a massive migration in the coming months.
Imagine Peyton Manning and Tom Brady lifting weights together while Ray Lewis and Darrelle Revis run sprints on the same field . . . for months. It could happen in a strange scenario that the NFL could be heading towards.
While the NFL owners and players union head toward a possible lockout, a mad scramble has already started in the background. The league is considering shutting down its facilities March 4, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. Modern-day professional sports athletes can't afford to sit on the couch and eat snacks or walk a picket line.
Most agents have already been busy trying to find a training site away from teams for the players to continue to work out. The league hasn't decided whether players will be locked out of the facilities if an agreement with the union has not been reached on extending the labor agreement by the time the current one expires. But such a move is very likely.
One of the facilities numerous NFL agents are already setting up agreements with is IMG Academy in Bradenton, which annually houses close to two dozen former college football stars while they prepare in January and February each year for the NFL Draft.
The 400-acre facility has been used in the past by dozens of current NFL players and agents, so it's a logical spot where a huge chunk of current pro stars will flock to keep sharp, should there be a lockout.
"We're already a west coast training venue for the Jacksonville Jaguars in case of a hurricane," said Trevor Moawad, the director of Athletic & Personal Development program.
Moawad has a previous relationship with the Jaguars. He currently also works with college football powers Texas, Florida State and Alabama as a mental conditioning coach.
Various NFL players who have trained at IMG in the past still use the facility from time to time, anyway. Now it looks like the facility could see a flock of NFL stars into its complex.
"We've talked to a number of agents on a number of players that are already taking the necessary precautions to make sure that they can get their athletes into an environment like this," Moawad said recently. "(They want) to help kind of control making sure the athletes are doing the right things in the offseason.
"I don't think that anybody thinks the season is not going to happen, I think everybody expects the season to happen. But I think it is realistic that the offseason workouts and the OTAs may not happen. We expect we'll have a lot of athletes here if there is a work stoppage."
While a lot of players will undoubtedly use personal trainers more, a large-scale facility like IMG offers more of what the athletes need -- with former professional and Olympic coaches and trainers on site and the chance to interact with other world-class talent on a daily basis in a training atmosphere.
How many players flock to IMG could be eye-opening. Moawad estimates the facility can comfortably accommodate e 150-200 players. And he's expecting the number to be very high, if not that high, should the NFL lock out athletes.
"We're prepared for it," Moawad said. "We're obviously one of the few facilities that has this size and the scale. These athletes understand even if there is no offseason workouts they need to be working out so we've talked with a number of agencies about getting them down here, getting them in the environment. Because we also have great facilities that they can host their families."
Moawad and his staff of more than 50 have also been busy getting former college stars ready for the NFL Draft in April and the upcoming NFL Combine.
Mel Kiper Jr. doesn't expect labor issues, at least initially, to have much impact on draft choices. Most are so busy trying to help their draft status they are oblivious to current NFL talks.
"I think it will be the same as always," Kiper said of the draft strategy he expects NFL teams to use.
There's some thought teams may not be as willing to trade draft picks or make moves around the selections since there's so much uncertainty about when college selections will be available to the teams. For example, why pile 2-3 picks together to move up and pick a player when you can't be certain you'll have enough time to train them for the 2011 season if there's a lockout of several months.
"First of all, you don't know what's going to happen and you don't know what's going to happen to your free agents (either)," Kiper said. "The impact (of a possible work stoppage) I don't think is going to be felt on draft day."
Contact Jones at 321-242-3682 or firstname.lastname@example.org.