I don’t have a problem with Blaine Gabbert not being in town working out with his future teammates. Sure, it’d be nice if he was here. In a perfect world, he’d be here.

But, Lord knows, the NFL’s world isn’t perfect. The NFL owners and players have created a mess that’s now threatening to shorten, if not cancel, the 2011 season. We all know professional sports are big business. We hear it all the time. Players leave in free agency because, as they often say, “it’s about feeding my family.” Teams cut veteran players because, as the GMs often say, “it’s strictly a business decision.”

Well, if I was advising Gabbert, the Jaguars first-round draft pick and the man now carrying the burden as the team’s franchise quarterback of the near future, I’d tell him to stay in top physical condition and study the Jaguars playbook like he was trying to pass the bar exam. And I’d tell him to stay home.

Its business, you understand.

Yeah, I know he has an insurance policy to fall back on. But don’t think for a minute an insurance policy is going to pay him the kind of money he’ll get as the 10th overall draft selection and certainly not anywhere close to the kind of money an NFL quarterback can make in a career. Even a mediocre NFL quarterback.

And, yes, he can get injured working out on his own. And he can get hurt crossing the street. Yada, yada, yada.

But why take any more chances than absolutely necessary?

All of this is a shame, of course, but the NFL has created a culture where money rules and little else matters. Loyalty? Are you kidding me? Heart? That’s laughable.

Both the owners and players are to blame. The tension between the two has collided with the force of a Ray Lewis tackle and the result is an owners’ lockout. How’d it reach this point?

For years owners didn’t pay the players what they were worth. The way of their world then was to use the player until his body broke down and then toss him out with the garage. There were no guarantees and little, if any, post career benefits.

Now the players have taken control. Yes, most are overpaid. They have insisted on strict union rules down to set fines for not just being late to meetings, etc. but how many minutes late. Players have built a system where some get a fortune before making a contribution. I’m not just talking about high draft picks. Think Hugh Douglass’ brief but profitable stay with the Jaguars. Think of Albert Haynesworth and Washington.

Seldom do sides in many situations find the middle ground where it is fair for both parties. The NFL is the “poster boy” in that regard.

Getting back to Gabbert, what do you think the Jaguars would do if he blew out a knee before signing a contract? Owner Wayne Weaver and general manager Gene Smith are good people from what little I know about them. They’d feel horrible for Gabbert. But, business being business, they’d move on to the next guy in line. (They’d also probably make some glowing and public comments in support of their current quarterback, David Garrard. Gotta keep him confident.)

For the record, I do understand and support the current players around the league holding their own workouts during the lockout. They’re trying to do what’s necessary to stay employed when the lockout is lifted. In many cases players have already taken money (signing bonuses) for future seasons. In my world, they have an obligation to be ready to play when the time comes.

Nor do I fault draft picks who’ve chosen to work out with future teammates. Former FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, taken 12th overall by the Vikings, comes to mind. And if Gabbert shows up to work out with the Jaguars, good for him. It’s a free country.

I simply wouldn’t advise him to do so. And I certainly don’t think he deserves criticism if he chooses not to.


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