Training academies like Athletes Performance in Carson, Ca. usually are busy in the months leading up to the draft as college players work on their vertical leaps and 40-yard dash times. The current lockout, however, has given Athletes Performance what amounts to a second season as approximately 40 NFL players, from rookies like Fresno State's Chris Carter to decorated veterans like Tom Brady and Carson Palmer, have used the facilities to train during the lockout.
Director Travelle Gaines said the group also has included 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, safety Dashon Goldson and outside linebacker Travis LaBoy. Both Goldson and LaBoy are free agents this offseason, although Goldson has accrued only four seasons of service and may be a restricted free agent when a new collective bargaining agreement is ratified. Willis and LaBoy also have spent some time this offseason training with teammates in the Bay Area.
Gaines said Goldson is part of a group of a dozen or so defensive backs that includes veterans like Eagles cornerback Joselio Hanson and rookies like Baltimore's Jimmy Smith. "Dashon - he's done a good job in leading those DBs," Gaines said. "He's definitely one of the leaders."
Gaines said that earlier this year, the focus at Athletes Performance was staying in shape. Beginning in May, however, it shifted to mimicking as closely as possible the movements players would be going through in normal minicamps and OTAs. For quarterbacks and receivers, that means running patterns and establishing timing. For defensive backs, it's a lot of "W" cuts and change-of-direction drills to strengthen their groins and other muscles.
Gaines said he tends to stay away from 7-on-7 drills and certainly any contact drills to avoid injuries. "I'm not sure I could sleep at night if one of my guys got injured," he said. No one knows when the lockout will end. What is clear is that when it is over, there won't be much time before players are thrown into full-scale practices. "The day the lockout ends," Gaines said, "these guys definitely will be ready to go."
-- Matt Barrows