Solomon Wilcots, now an analyst for NFL Network, was a rookie Bengals defensive back during the 1987 NFL work stoppage. He's lived what many rookies will have to face after the draft is over later in April -- being an NFL rookie that will be unable to practice, make contact with his coaches or learn the ropes of the NFL.
"This is the Cuban Missile Crisis," Wilcots says. "Back then, the fight was about free agency and we didn't have any leverage at all. Now, both sides have The Bomb. They can blow each other up, so it's a lot more dangerous now. I'm optimistic something is going to get done. No one is going to split the baby. They're going to keep the golden goose alive. I'm also equally pessimistic. The wild card is ego. You know what they say: Pride always comes before the fall."
The guys selected in the top rounds will likely be safe when the draft ends. After all, with the lack of free agency, NFL teams will need to draft for need more than they draft for the best player available -- at least that's true for the teams that had their franchise quarterback say that he wanted to be traded or he'd retire.
However, in Wilcots' case, and in the case of later round picks this year, their spot will not be guaranteed, especially if the lockout ends right before the regular season starts or after it should have started.
"It was a representative of the Bengals telling me that I wasn't guaranteed a spot whenever the strike was over," he says of the warning to cross the picket line. "I knew even then that I probably wouldn't be around to reap the benefits of what we were striking for. And I was right. But I figured if I was good enough to make the team after training camp, I could make another one."
Needless to say, things are a little different between the 1987 work stoppage that affected the Bengals eighth-round pick and the current lockout that could change football forever. With both sides unwilling to budge and the future of the NFL in the hands of federal judges in Minnesota, many believe that not only the 2011 season is in jeopardy, but the NFL itself is in jeopardy too.
Wilcots believes that the game is "literally on the brink."