Workouts, camp keep Freeney busy during lockout

MICHAEL MAROT - AP Sports Writer
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Indianapolis Colts' Dwight Freeney demonstrates a spin move during the Dwight Freeney football Camp in Indianapolis, Wednesday, June 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dwight Freeney felt as though he was back at training camp Wednesday.

He posed for pictures, spoke to children and waved to the fans. Hey, it was certainly hot enough to feel like August, and the Colts' Pro Bowl defensive end is optimistic he'll be doing all this again in less than two months at Anderson University.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Freeney believes the NFL's players and owners will reach a new collective bargaining agreement in time for training camps to start as scheduled in late July or early August.

"I think so," he said. "I mean why not? We have the best game in the world."

Freeney also understands the obstacles.

League owners want a greater percentage of the roughly $9 billion in annual revenue that is shared with the players. They also want a rookie wage scale; the regular season expanded from 16 games to 18, cutting the preseason by two games. Players, who are against all of those things, also are bargaining for more benefits to go to retired players.

Three years ago, owners opted out of the recent CBA, which was signed in 2006. When the current deal expired in March and negotiations broke off later that month, owners locked out the players — a move that brought the game to a grinding halt.

Free agency was put on hold, teams have not been able to re-sign their own players and other than one brief respite this spring, players such as Freeney have not even been allowed onto the team's premises.

So they've been doing their own things.

Freeney said he is one of many Colts participating in player-organized workouts at an undisclosed location in the Indy area.

"We're doing a little bit," he said with a smile. "It's hard to get everything organized, but we've got some small organized groups getting things done."

He didn't elaborate.

Players have been busy doing other things, too.

Punter Pat McAfee spent part of this week filling in as a radio talk show host and attending the draft workouts of the NBA's Pacers.

Freeney is hosting this two-day camp, for children ages 7 to 14, at North Central High School on the city's north side.

On Thursday, defensive end Robert Mathis and Pacers center Roy Hibbert will host a celebrity softball game to raise money for the Indiana Wish Fund. The games starts at 7 p.m. at Victory Field, the home of the Indians, Indianapolis' minor-league team. Players from the Colts, including Freeney, and the Pacers are expected to attend.

But it's not just players working in this uncertain world. Team officials also are trying to finalize training camp plans.

Last year, the Colts moved training camp back to Anderson University, a Division III school about 45 miles northeast of the city, after 11 years in Terre Haute, Ind., near the Illinois border.

Team owner Jim Irsay has said the team will return to Anderson — if camp starts on time. Anderson officials say the school will be ready for whatever happens, and Colts general manager Chris Polian told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the Colts have not established a deadline for making their decision.

"At this juncture, we have a little bit of a calendar to work with," Polian said. "Hopefully, we'll go back to business as usual on the regular calendar. But until we know the rules and the landscape, it's hard to say we're leaning one way or the other. The biggest thing is to be flexible and prepared for all situations."

Polian, whose father was the architect of the Colts' dynamic run over the last decade, is closely monitoring the progress of the talks.

Freeney is not.

"My thought is 'Let me know when we get it done,'" Freeney said. "We have to come to an agreement, and it does no good to stress myself out by praying or thinking about it. So just let me know when it's done."