By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
While he was happy that he could get back to work, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Roy Miller was a little torn when he heard about the end of the NFL lockout.
"I had a bunch of mixed feelings because I really wasn't a part of that group of people that were (involved), I didn't know a lot and I just had a bunch of questions - kinda still do - and that's just the worst thing, just not knowing a bunch of stuff," said Miller, a former Shoemaker and University of Texas standout entering his third season with the Bucs.
"Not knowing what they signed, what was going to happen this week - it's really a lot to take in. We knew it was going to come but never anticipated it'd come without pretty much a heads-up."
On Monday, player representatives for the league's 32 teams approved the new collectively bargaining agreement unanimously to officially bring to an end the 136-day lockout, following approval by the owners last week. Preseason games are set to begin Aug. 11 with the regular season to start on time Sept. 8.
When news broke, many around the nation - players and fans alike - let out a giant sigh of relief upon hearing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell declare "football is back." Even though today was the first day teams were asking players to report, many showed up to team facilities Tuesday morning.
"Any time you can get back to what you love, that's a good sign. I'm just glad everything worked out," said San Francisco 49ers receiver and Harker Heights product Dominique Zeigler. "Not everybody got exactly what they wanted on either side, and that includes the fans who have been wanting this to be over. You're not going to get everything you want but you wanted to get as fair of a deal as you can, and I think it worked out for everybody."
Upon receiving the official confirmation from team representatives about mid-day, players across the nation were trying to coordinate travel plans to rejoin their respective teams.
Locally, Miller and Zeigler were joined by former Killeen and University of Oklahoma product Juaquin Iglesias in packing their bags and saying goodbye to loved ones.
"I was kind of prepared in the sense that I knew not to go plan anything," said Zeigler, who flew out of Austin on Tuesday in preparation for the 49ers' report date Thursday. "I just started washing my clothes, packing a couple of bags and cleaned up a couple things that needed to get done. Next thing you know, they called me with a plane ticket saying, 'Let's go.'"
The quick turnaround was especially hard on Miller, a married father of two young children.
"It puts the man of the house in a tough predicament," he said. "But you've got to have a great wife that can take care of all those things. I know Nikkie, she can take care of all that stuff and she makes it easy for me to just play football."
While many players like Miller became frustrated dealing with so much uncertainty and misinformation being tossed around during the longest work stoppage in NFL history, Zeigler - who has spent much of the lockout rehabbing a late-season knee injury - avoided the free-flowing reports all together.
"I don't really like getting into all the 'what-ifs' and what was going on in the TV or the newspapers," Zeigler said. "I heard we were getting unlocked, I heard we weren't. Pretty much until I got a phone call saying 'let's come to work,' I really didn't pay attention to any of it."
Another stressful part of the lockout for many of the players was the inability to deal directly with their team training staff and doctors.
The Indianapolis Colts' MVP quarterback Peyton Manning, one of the 10 named plaintiffs in the resolved antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, has been vocal about how the lockout has hindered his ability to recover from offseason surgery on his neck.
"Not having the opportunity to talk with them has been kind of weird, but you just learn to do a lot of stuff on your own," Miller said. "It's been an experience."
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or (254) 501-7566.