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Chris Morris is biding part of his time this summer getting down and dirty as a groundskeeper and handyman around his home.
The Temperance native is maintaining a well-manicured lawn. Any home fixtures in need of repair, Morris is playing Mr. Fix-It.
That’s just a part of how the five-year NFL veteran offensive lineman has spent this longer-than-usual summer vacation that has come as a result of the NFL lockout, which is in its 101st day and counting.
“I’ve gotten a lot more work done around the house, and my lawn is looking a lot better,” said Morris, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound center.
The contractual issues between NFL ownership and players have left many with more free time on their hands. Morris has made the most of this time by also spending it with his wife, Krista, and their 1½-year-old daughter. He cherishes the extra bonding time with his family.
The last time the 28-year-old had so much free time on his hands took place during the summer break prior to becoming a student at Bedford High School.
A seventh-round draft choice (214th overall) by the Oakland Raiders in 2006, the former Michigan State and Kicking Mules standout lineman played four years with the Raiders and spent last season as a member of the Carolina Panthers.
However, Morris is experiencing the NFL work stoppage as a free agent after Carolina opted not to extend his contract. He is in the peculiar and uneasy position of being an NFL player without a team who has not filed any retirement forms.
“I’m checking the media every day trying to figure out what’s going on with the lockout situation,” Morris said. “My agent is not allowed to talk to any of the teams because it’s against the rules, so he doesn’t know any more than I do.
“It’s been basically much more different than I’ve ever experienced.”
Unlike NFL veterans who were under contract before the start of the lockout, Morris doesn’t have a playbook to study during the down time. As a free agent, he doesn’t have any teammates to run drills with during unofficial team gatherings.
Yet, he hopes his five seasons in the league, which include 51 games played (11 games started), will lead to a quick signing with a team in need of a veteran center once the owners and players reach an agreement.
“Over the past two years, our union has been telling us this has been a possibility that the owners would opt out of the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement],” he said. “As to how much the players were believing this could happen, that was up to each individual.
“I’ve always tried to be smart with my money. I don’t buy luxurious items. I just live a comfortable life.
“I’m comfortable right now, but I’m also definitely hoping things start moving along and we play football this fall.”
Morris’ brother, Chad, 32, has also done his part to help Chris utilize this additional time off from NFL practice fields and facilities.
The older Morris has spent many summers helping his younger brother train in gyms and on practice fields in preparation for football seasons that would normally kick off during the early days of autumn.
Yet, Chad, who serves as the Sylvania fire department’s wellness coordinator, admits the NFL lockout has made training his brother this summer more memorable than most.
“I really enjoy this time of the year because I get a chance to be with him every day,” Chad said. “I hate to have him in the situation he’s in now with so much uncertainty with him being a free agent. But, of course, I love to have him home more. He gets to see his kid now.
“I’ve been so proud of him for all the things he’s done that I love being around him.”
Chris has been working out regularly five days a week since the work stoppage. He spends several days a week in a local gym training with weights to help maintain his overall size and strength. His workout schedule also calls for cardiovascular conditioning. He runs and stretches on the track and football field at Bedford High.
However, due to the lockout, Chad said they’ve deviated this year from their typical offseason workouts.
“We’ve got to be careful not to overtrain now because we’re in a holding pattern,” Chad said. “Until we know exactly when he’s going back, then we’ll boost it up the next couple weeks before he goes back.
“The point is to not turn him into a bodybuilder. We work on more explosive exercises that are football specific.”
Chris believes the time off has benefited him physically. The break could allow him to enter camp in the best shape of his career.
“The offseason is a chance to get your body healthy from the [previous] season,” Chris said. “I’m healthy now, and I’m ready to start playing again.”
And resume getting down and dirty on the well-manicured grounds of NFL football fields.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6302.