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Jermaine Cunningham and Rich Ohrnberger talk about the impact that the lockout will have on this year’s rookie class

06.18.11 at 8:01 pm ET
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Linebacker Jermaine Cunningham works with kids at the "Football For YOU" clinic Saturday in Providence. (Photo courtest NE Patriots)

With the spring portion of the NFL calendar now completely wiped out because of the lockout, the time missed for the rookies is incalculable — this year’s rookie class won’t have a chance to take part in the offseason team activities, the spring minicamps or get a head start on learning the playbook.

It’s something I’ve already covered here, and on Saturday afternoon, I had a chance to ask a couple more Patriots’ veterans about what sort of impact that missed time could have on this rookie class. Offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger and linebacker Jermaine Cunningham were appearing at the “Football For YOU” clinic in Providence, and in between sessions with nearly 70 kids, they discussed what sort of consequences could go along with the rookies missing the entire spring calendar.

“It’s definitely important,” Ohrnberger said. “The more time you can spend in the system, the more comfortable you’ll be and the better off you’ll be for it. So there will be some catching up for some of those guys. But it’s a different kind of offseason. They’re going to be pushed right into the mix when we get going. Just based on the kind of guys this organization brings in, I think they’ll be all right. We have good coaches, and I feel strongly about that. I think they’ll be OK.”

“All that helps, just being around our teammates and learning the playbook and just getting better with the team. That all helps,” Cunningham said. “But you can’t do anything about it now. Just stay in top of everything and be ready.”

Both Cunningham and Ohrnberger are relatively young players — a rookie last season, this is Cunningham’s first NFL offseason — and have admittedly had trouble adjusting to the fact that with the lockout, the rules are different this offseason.

“It is weird. They say after your first year, that’s the biggest jump, when a guy makes that leap. But like I said, for me coming in, this first year, having this lockout, it’s kind of difficult. But you have to go with it and just be ready,” Cunningham said. “The only think I can say is that I’m going to go into it like the season is coming and just be ready.”

“It’s been different, but good,” Ohrnberger said. “I’ve gotten to see more of my family and my friends, but I haven’t been distracted from my job, which is to train hard and be ready for whenever everything gets sorted out. I’m excited for a season — I think there will be one. I just hopeful that both sides can come to an agreement soon.”

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