The 2011 NFL Lockout has already taken away OTAs (offseason training activities), the normal free agency period, and now seen the cancellation of June’s rookie symposium. Many veterans in the NFL are wondering how this could affect their free agenct status and chance to make big-time contracts with their current or other NFL teams. Then there are those merely hoping to still prove themselves.
Like linebacker Jonathan Casillas of the New Orleans Saints.
On his way to possibly becoming a starter with the Saints after going undrafted, an injury of the last game of the 2010 preseason not only set him back, but put him on the shelf for the year. With the outside linebacker positions not exactly set in stone, Casillas had hoped to move up and win a spot. He still hopes for that opportunity.
“Of course it’s going to hinder it,” Casillas said of the lockout’s effect on his comeback from a broken left foot. “Everybody’s going to be hindered.”
Casillas was undergoing rehab and treatement from the team ever since his injury occurred last year, but he has been unable to do so from the team since the lockout went into place on March 11. He has found treatment on his own in New Orleans and his home state of New Jersey while also participating in the player organized workouts at Tulane University.
The young linebacker says that so far he has felt great during the workouts and sees no lingering problems from his injury.
“We haven’t played football yet. You never really know until you get out there and start doing things like that,” Casillas said. “I’m taking my time. I’m not in a rush to do anything football-related as of right now, you know, given the lockout situation.”
With Scott Fujita leaving for the Cleveland Browns after the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, it opened up a spot for a new starter. On the other side of starting middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma was Scott Shanle who was not getting any younger. So in a nutshell, one of the two outside linebacker spots were Casillas’ for the taking.
“I always believed that I could play in this league, whether it be as a starter or regular contributor,” Casillas said. “Going through my rookie year, playing behind Shanle, watching Fujita and learning from (middle linebacker Jonathan) Vilma — all those guys — they taught me how to be a better football player, a better professional.”
Training camp was great for Casillas.
The first three preseason games were great for Casillas.
The fourh preseason game was great for Casillas until…he suffered a Lisfranc injury that required the insertion of two screws into his foot. Recovery time of seven to twelve months automatically knocked him out for the season. One screw removed and one remains, but the linebacker remembers how difficult it was to know he was done for the year before it even really began.
“It was tough,” Casillas said.
Now it is almost eight full months since his injury and already the linebacker says he is prepared to show the Saints that he is ready.
“Made me feel good about being around the facility, and I didn’t feel like I was moping around. They (teammates and coaches) made me feel good about getting back out there and that they wanted me there.
“That was much appreciated to help me get along, and I’m grateful for it and as motivated as I’ve ever been,” Casillas continued. “I feel like it’s my sophomore year in college again, when I knew I could play. I know I can get out there and be a starter and contribute to this defense, man, because I think we’ve got something special.”
Casillas is certainly a special young player and one that can be a force on any team in the entire NFL, but he needs the chance to show that he can stay healthy and prove his worth. The Who Dat Nation needs to hope that he gets that opportunity with the Saints because Jonathan Casillas could be a great starting outside linebacker for many years to come.
Information from The Associated Press 2011 was used in this report
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