|Like Scott Shanle (#58), Roman Harper (#41) is another one of the many Saints free agents in limbo, unable to sign during the lockout.|
On Feb. 9th, veteran NFL linebacker Scott Shanle and his wife, Erin, welcomed their third child into this uncertain world, a beautiful daughter named Aivree.
Now three months later, Shanle remains unemployed, in â€œLockout Limbo,â€™â€™ an unrestricted free agent who cannot negotiate with his former team, the New Orleans Saints, or any other NFL team for that matter while the judicial system wrestles with the leagueâ€™s fate. Â
Because of his unsigned status and the potential for injury, the 31-year-old Shanle is not participating in the ongoing â€œplayersâ€™ onlyâ€™â€™ workouts led by Saints quarterback Drew Brees at Tulane University. Instead, Shanle is working out on his own. Â
With an assist from Saints beat writer Brian Allee-Walsh of SportsNOLA.com, Shanle has agreed to chronicle his thoughts and concerns during the lockout, now approaching two months.Â
This is Shanleâ€™s first installment of â€œNFL 2011: No Where To Goâ€™â€™ as told to Allee-Walsh. Future installments will come as events warrant. Â
KENNER -- We still donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going on, what the future holds for me and my family. Right now, we canâ€™t even plan a trip to get out of town or go anywhere because it could change at any moment. Thatâ€™s probably the most frustrating thing - we canâ€™t really plan for anything. On the positive side, I have great downtime with the family and I can catch up on things that I normally wouldnâ€™t be able to do. Â
With the help of social networking, Iâ€™m staying in touch with a lot of the guys. I just tweeted last night to Lance Moore about his situation and what heâ€™s thinking about doing for workouts. We really didnâ€™t discuss getting together and working out because heâ€™s not in town. A lot of free agents arenâ€™t in town. Â
I guess I knew this was a possibility. When I entered the league (as a seventh-round draft pick from Nebraska by the St. Louis Rams in 2003), all I worried about was trying to make a team and prove myself. I didnâ€™t understand the role of our union and what they did until probably my third or fourth year in the league. I was just trying to make a team and keep my head above the water. Thatâ€™s the way a lot of the young guys are. IÂ never thought weâ€™d not be playing football on Sundays. Â
I know there are other teams out there that have expressed interest in me, so I definitely think there will be other opportunities to play in the league. But the one thing that does bother me is that New Orleans might be ready to move in another direction. Nobody wants to leave a team, especially a team that just won a Super Bowl and has a chance to win another. Can they win it again soon? The easy answer would be to say â€˜yes,â€™ but the reality is I donâ€™t know because we have so many free agents. You donâ€™t know what the makeup or the look of the team is going to be. Obviously, if you take the core players who are going to be there, the main guys, then yeah, you say â€˜yes, we have a chance.â€™ But itâ€™s not just the core guys. You need to have other guys contribute like we had two years ago during our Super Bowl XLIV run. So itâ€™s hard to definitely say â€˜yesâ€™ without knowing all the pieces of the puzzle. Â
ButÂ we have our coaching staff coming back, and, right now, I can sit down and look at everything I have written down from last year. I can study my playbook word-for-word and know that thatâ€™s what weâ€™re going to do this year ...Â if I play for the Saints, that is. Other teams havenâ€™t even gotten to sit down with their head coach and coordinators yet and have no idea whatâ€™s going on. Itâ€™s a huge advantage for teams that have their own people coming back. Weâ€™ve played a lot of football together. We know each other and have chemistry together. Thatâ€™s a huge advantage for us and teams like us. Â
I think we missed Scott Fujita a lot more than I think anybody thought we would. What he did for that (strongside linebacker) position, especially in Gregg Williamsâ€™ defense, thereâ€™s not many guys in the NFL who could do what he did for us at that position. Heâ€™s a big player who runs well and he makes it hard for tight ends at the line of scrimmage with his hands. So when you take a guy who is that big and that athletic, I think we may have underestimated exactly what he brought to the table. Guys like him are rare. Â
Yeah, I kind of feel like Scott did when it came to trying to get a deal doneÂ last year at this time. I kind of felt that way back in April 2010 when our contract discussionsÂ didnâ€™t go much of anywhere. In talking with (Fujita), he kind of went through the same thing (before signing a lucrative free agent contract with Cleveland). Thatâ€™s kind of the same way I see myself. I kind of put myself in his shoes last year.
Even though I'm not out practicing with the guys, I definitely still feel a part of the team because of the communication that I have here and there with (Saints linebacker) Jon Vilma. But as the days wear on and on, as it drags out longer, it makes me get that itch that I want to get back and see those guys and get back in a setting that Iâ€™m familiar with.
To be honest, I think if we as a team went to training camp in mid-August, weâ€™d need three weeks with two preseason games to get ready for the season opener (Sept. 8 at Green Bay). So say, if we went to camp on Aug. 15, weâ€™d need a week to 10 days of training camp and two preseason games, say on Aug. 25 and Sept. 1. Now that would be all the preparation weâ€™d need for the New Orleans Saints and some of these other veteran teams. But the teams with new coaches and coordinators, that would not be enough time. In fact, the time that those teams are missing out on right now is more harmful than missing a full training camp. The fact that these teams with new coaches and new players may not be able to practice together until August, thatâ€™s a huge disadvantage for them.
For us, we put our first install in during OTAs, then a second time in minicamp and the third time in training camp. So we really have three installs by the time the season comes. For rookies coming from the college game, I can remember youâ€™re just trying to learn the system and all the language and adjusting to the speed of the game and getting that confidence so you can play at this level. So this is a huge time of year for those guys.
That said,Â I personally donâ€™t think weâ€™re going to miss any games. I really donâ€™t think that way. Even if we did,Â I donâ€™t think missing the whole season would affect (my family) financially. It would be frustrating from a personal standpoint, but financially, weâ€™d be all right. Now with three kids, I think Erin likes having an extra set of hands around the house to help with the kids. But I think there are days where sheâ€™d like to see me go back to work and have them get this over with (laughing).
The frustrating thing for me is the fact that both sides arenâ€™t sitting in a room somewhere hammering out a deal right now. Nothing can get done if youâ€™re relying on other people, the judges, to get something done. The fact that theyâ€™re not meeting is the most frustrating part. I say get â€˜em in a room and make â€˜em sit in there for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until they get something done. Â
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