So, maybe that long lockout didn't hurt the rookies after all — aside from the big hits they took to their wallets.
With the league's new salary structure redistributing the mega-millions to vested veterans instead of first-year players, and encouraging the 2011 draft class to prove its worth, a slew of rookies distinguished themselves on the NFL's opening weekend. That's despite missing months of workouts due to the labor dispute.
The dazzling debuts included those by Green Bay receiver/returner Randall Cobb, Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin, Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and cornerback/punt returner Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals.
None was more impressive — or seemed more improbable — than Carolina's Cam Newton, who broke the NFL record for most yards passing by a rookie in his pro debut.