If the stress of the NFL lockout is getting to Chris Culliver, he’s hiding the strain well.
Culliver, who was selected in the third round of April’s draft by San Francisco, has yet to join his new team or even travel to San Francisco due to the league’s work stoppage. Teams and players are forbidden from having contact until a new collective bargaining agreement is signed, so would-be newcomers to the league have plenty of time on their hands and not much idea of what to do with it.
Culliver decided to take a break from his workout regimen for "vacation," he said. His down time has included a slip-and-slide party at his Columbia apartment complex, water balloon fights, lounging by the swimming pool and playing pick-up basketball with his former Gamecock teammates.
"I have been burning myself out working out since December of last year working out non-stop, so I just took a week off to enjoy myself," the defensive back said.
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While some of his new teammates work out at San Jose State on their own, Culliver has no means to get to San Francisco, he said, because he has yet to sign a contract with the team due to the lockout. So, he spends his time trying to keep his body in shape and keeping an eye on ESPN, turning up the volume when NFL reporter Adam Schefter appears on the screen.
"I am pretty much just listening to that whenever he comes on and talks about it," Culliver said. "Normally around this time we’d be playing football, and I probably would have gotten settled into a house. Instead, everybody is just hanging out."
Culliver hasn’t been to San Francisco since the 49ers flew him out for a predraft workout, and he doesn’t know any of his teammates, he said.
"I know of them," he said.
Culliver said his agent told him he expects the lockout to be finished within the next 30 days, but he remains unconvinced.
"I guess I am really just confused or uncertain like pretty much everyone else, not knowing when it’s going to end," he said.
Culliver and defensive end Cliff Matthews were the only two former Gamecocks to be drafted this year. The lockout is much more stressful for wide receiver Tori Gurley, tight end Wes Saunders, fullbacks Brian Maddox and Patrick DiMarco and offensive linemen Jarriel King and Garrett Chisolm.
Culliver and Matthews know where they are headed when the lockout ends. (Matthews was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the seventh round.) The remaining South Carolina products have to wait just to see if they will get a chance to join a team through free agency.
Gurley gave up his final two years of collegiate eligibility to enter the draft but has no regrets, he said.
"I sleep well at night knowing I gave my all to the University of South Carolina and preparing for the NFL combine," he said.
Gurley received "15 or 16" calls from NFL teams during the draft, he said, but none were to inform him that he’d been selected. Instead, teams were checking on his interest in a free agent deal, he said.
"The offers are there," he said. "As soon as this lockout ends, my phone is going to blow off the hook. I was always a hard worker, but now I am more motivated than ever. Whatever I need to do to make the team, it will be done."
Gurley, DiMarco, Matthews and sometimes King are working out with their former teammates four days a week at South Carolina’s football facility, Gurley said.
Gurley is anxious for the lockout to end, he said, and has made several visits to children’s hospitals in the area to help pass the time.
"It feels great to put a smile on a kid’s face," he said. "It would be easy to let the lockout overwhelm me, so I’m trying to do that kind of stuff instead."