Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison Say Lockout Fears May Mar Season
That's the view of NBC Sports NFL analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison. The former Indianapolis Colts coach and former New England Patriots safety think the end of the 2010 schedule could be marred by the anxiety of players and coaches over what's to come.
Harrison, who, like Dungy appears on "Football Night in America," NBC's pregame show, said during a conference call Monday, that current players told him that minor injuries, like sprained ankles, contusions and bruised ribs, could keep them off the field in the final weeks of the season, particularly if they're unsigned for the 2011 season.
Said Harrison: "Just plain and simple. These guys are not going to take a chance of going out there when they knew once they have a new contract, they're instant millionaires. They're not going to take a chance of stepping back on the field, of getting hurt and not being able to play any longer. You're going to see a lot more guys getting out and not really playing that last stretch of games, that four or five games that really matter."
Dungy concurred, adding that assistant coaches, worried about where they might work the following season, might get out of the NFL to seek security at a college.
"You're going to have assistant coaches saying, 'Hey, we might not have a job next year. Maybe I should get on the phone and start calling these different colleges as these openings come,'" Dungy said.
Citing the example of former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who guided the Redskins to Super Bowl wins in strike seasons in 1982 and 1987, Dungy said the coach who is able to best deflect lockout-related distractions may win it all this year.
"I think the head coaches who really handle this situation the best and keep their teams focused in November and December are going to be the teams that win," Dungy said. "I don't think that (the Redskins' Super Bowl wins were) a coincidence. Joe Gibbs did the best job of keeping his teams focused."