The longer the NFL lockout lasts, the less chance Dominique Johnson — or any other undrafted player — has of making it to the league in his first year removed from the Cal Poly football team.
Trying not to dwell on the deadlock between players and owners, Johnson has turned his attention toward other money-making options for now.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver attended a workout for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League last week, has an open tryout for the five-team United Football League this weekend and could sign with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League come Monday.
While the NFL players and owners appear to be digging in their heels in the midst of a grueling legal battle, some fringe players waiting for an opportunity have already lost their nerve for the uncertain labor situation.
“It ticks me off when I’m on Twitter, I’m reading articles and guys are saying they’re enjoying the lockout or they’re at home hanging out,” said Johnson, who moved to Phoenix after graduating with a history degree in December.
“It’s easy for those established guys to make comments like that, but just in my particular case, that upsets me a little bit knowing I haven’t had the opportunity as a free agent to come in and try to make a team. My route is so uncertain at this point.”
The fact that time is running out contributes to the frustration.
If the higher-profile UFL doesn’t snag Johnson, he could end up signing with the Arizona Rattlers, who, at 7-2, have the second-best record through the first half of the AFL season.
Even if the former UCLA transfer does sign with a professional football organization other than the NFL, he said he’ll still pursue a part-time job. He has an application out with a local Sports Authority retail store.
When purchasing sporting goods, why not trust a former intercollegiate athlete who’s familiar with the equipment?
The same logic follows for NFL teams that will be scrambling to fill rosters when the lockout is eventually lifted and general managers can talk contracts with player agents once more.
The longer the lockout lasts, the less time teams have to prepare for the season ahead, the more likely they are to keep familiar players over untested rookies.
Exhibit A: Despite his acrimonious marriage with fans, the San Francisco 49ers have indicated plans to bring back beleaguered veteran quarterback Alex Smith.
Johnson has learned as much about the ticking clock for rookie free agents by talking with current NFL players such as New York Giants receiver and former Cal Poly star Ramses Barden and Johnson’s former UCLA teammate Alterraun Verner, a cornerback with the Tennessee Titans.
“They all say the same thing,” Johnson said. “The longer it drags out, the less likely it becomes that you have a chance of making the team.
“Do you realistically have enough time to come in and learn the playbook and get used to playing for the team without the benefit of OTAs and minicamps?”
The players and owners go back to court June 3 to resume the latest battle, an appellate court hearing that will either lift the lockout of extend it.
Both sides can end it all by coming to an agreement, but little has been reported to indicate either has done much to compromise.
All Johnson can do is train, wait and try to earn some sort of a living while his future is on hold.
“I’m ultimately just rooting for them to get a deal done,” Johnson said. “The faster it can get done, the better it is for guys like myself.”