Fabian Washington doesn’t sit by the phone and wait for it to ring. The erstwhile Baltimore Ravens cornerback turned free agent knows that, due to the NFL lockout, he won’t be hearing from any NFL GMs or head coaches anytime soon. As long as the lockout is in place, veteran free agents like Washington are not only without a job, but face an uncertain future.
“It’s different for free agents than the guys under contract,” say Washington. “When all this gets settled, for the guys with a contract, it’s business as usual. They go back to work. For us free agents, we don’t know what the new rules are going to look like. We still have to find a job!”
And finding a job once the labor problems are solved won’t be that simple either. For one, there’s a good chance this year’s “off-season” might be condensed into a few weeks or even days. The 8th Circuit Court is scheduled to hear the appeal from the players around the 8th of June. If things get settled then, that would be the best case scenario. If things aren’t settled then, Washington says this could drag into training camp and “get really ugly.”
When an agreement is reached, Washington believes the situation will be chaotic. “It’s not just us. Teams still have to sign their draft picks, undrafted free agents, and then go after the veteran free agents out there. It’ll be a barnstorm of activity.” And if all this drags into training camp, the entire process might have to occur at warp speed to get players into camp.
That’s why players like Washington aren’t sitting idle right now. “Ninety per cent of the players are out there busting their butts right now so they’ll be ready when it’s time to play ball. You don’t want to go into training camp, especially when there’s no OTA’s and try to get into shape. That’s when injuries occur.” Being ready to play when the whistle does finally blow is even more critical to free agents like Washington trying to earn a roster spot. Washington is training daily in Orlando with his own trainer.
There is some positive to emerge from the lockout, however. Washington has enjoyed the increased “daddy time” he’s been able to spend with his 3 year-old little girl. “Usually at this time, I’d be in Baltimore working out with the team, getting ready for OTA’s.” Except for working out, Fabian gets to spend the rest of his time enjoying his family.
Washington, a six-year veteran with the Raiders and Ravens is eager to get started though. “I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for three years. I’ve had three major surgeries (neck, shoulder, knee) during that time and had to play hurt. I’m 100% now for the first time in a long time and can’t wait to see what I can really do out on the field.” He’s been with Baltimore for three seasons now, but the Ravens spent their first round pick on a cornerback, Jimmy Smith from Colorado, so it’s unclear as to where he stands with the Ravens now. And it’s not like he can communicate with the coaches to find out. Of course that communication is forbidden with other teams as well. Washington says he has a list of teams where he’d like to play if things don’t work out in Baltimore (Jacksonville, Tennessee, Houston, Minnesota, and Detroit are all on his list).
Overall, Fabian remains upbeat about it all. “It’s easier for us veterans. I’d hate to be a rookie coming in during all this. No OTAs will really hurt them. Picking up a playbook will be easy for me. I’ve been in the league awhile and there’s only so much you can do to football. I’m a cornerback.” Washington is confident there will be a season this year and that he will be playing somewhere. Where that is and when he’ll actually get back on the field remains to be seen.
Until then, he’ll live the life of a cornerback: alone on an island, putting himself in the best position for when the ball comes his way.