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How NFL Teams Are Keeping Tabs On Their Players Despite The Lockout

I'm not really interested in writing anything about Tony Romo's latest results in a golf tournament. Nor do I really care about whether Dez Bryant has had his mall privileges restored, or what Deion Sanders has to say about the whole situation.

But what did catch my eye over the weekend, by way of Pro Football Talk, was something that Matt Stafford, the QB of the Lions who is recovering from shoulder surgery, tweeted yesterday:

Didn't get twitter to let coaches kno how I'm doin...they know. Just want our fans to know how were doing...

So the Lions coaches know how their QB is doing. That's not the tune many other coaches were whistling at the recent owners meeting.

The Sporting News quotes three NFL coaches on whether they know what their players are doing.

Titans coach Mike Munchak

"The (players) are on their own. It's not like you organize anything. Somebody said, 'Are they working out?' I have no idea. You don't know who's working out, who's not working out, all this stuff. But I'm confident that when our guys come back, they will be ready to roll."

Jets coach Rex Ryan

"If these guys don't take the initiative, I've got the wrong kind of football team to start with. If they can't figure out where to work out and how much to work out, usually you've got the wrong guy to start with."

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan

"I think a pro football player knows what his duties are and what he needs to do to prepare himself to play. There's a lot being made right now about guys getting together to work out. Is there some good to that? There's no question there is. But most players right now are probably preparing their bodies to get ready for an offseason program, so I would think if you play in the National Football League, you're doing everything you can do get your bodies and minds right so you can be ready to go play."

All three coaches appear to be toeing the company line, maintaining that they have no clue about what's going on with their players. While it's nice that NFL coaches seem to have faith that their players won't slack off during the lockout, it also appears that a little benign oversight won't hurt.

The Lions coach, Jim Schwartz last week explained how his coaching staff was able to keep monitoring Matthew Stafford:

"Our trainers are in communication with - not the players - but the people who are doing their rehab," Schwartz said, per Tom Kowalski of mlive.com.  "I’m not sure exactly how often they’re in touch, but I get reports on a fairly consistent basis.  That doesn’t mean I get a report every time somebody talks to a guy or something like that.  We can’t supervise, but we can communicate with the supervisors."

In an interview with philly.com, Eagles coach Andy Reid further clarifies who exactly can be in contact with whom:

Can the team's doctor's talk to injured players during the lockout?
As long as they did the surgeries, I believe there’s that part in there. … Rick [Burkholder] really has all of it. As long as the doctor did the surgery he can talk to that player. If he didn’t do the surgery then he can talk to the doctor that did that surgery on that player.

So you're able to keep tabs on injured players like Brandon Graham and Nate Allen?
[Reid nods.]

Okay, so we've established how teams can keep tabs on injured players via their doctors, but can they also keep tabs on how the other players are doing with regard to, say, their workout regime? The NFL has expressly forbidden teams from having any contact with players during the lockout, and has even fined a handful of team recently, including the Cowboys, for contact with players during the league’s "dead period" leading up to the lockout.

The NFL is taking "no contact" very seriously, and some coaches were informed that contact with players during the lockout would be a reason for firing with cause. What exactly "no contact" means is something that may need to be decided by the lawyers down the line, but since we know that there is "contact", albeit indirect, between injured players and their coaches, what's to stop teams from using similar "intermediaries" to keep tabs on the workout regimen of their other, un-injured players?

We're only into the third week of the lockout so there isn't that much pressure on players and coaches to get going with their programs - yet. But once this lockout stretches in May or June, watch teams get very creative in interpreting the "no contact" policy. To paraphrase Jim Schwarz, "teams may not supervise, but they can communicate with the supervisors". [Reid nods]

Until then, players like the Cowboys' Orlando Scandrick are working out by themselves at facilities like the Athletes Performance Institute (API) in Carson, California. Because API founder Mark Verstegen has been the NFL Players Association’s director of performance for a decade, it's highly unlikely that anything untoward is going on there. Scandrick is working out with many other NFL players, according to an article by Doug Farrar at Yahoosports, and while Scandrick seems to miss working out with the full team, he also sees an advantage of the new situation, smaller training groups:

"Usually, it’s a regimen – we’re with the team, with the guys, and we’re running … I’m looking at it and trying to stay as positive as I can," Scandrick said. "It’s not a good thing, but in a sense, you have to look at it as a good thing. Because you can get in that extra work – you can get more specific work done because the groups are much smaller."