WE BEGIN with the disclaimer that no one should feel sorry for Kevin Kolb and his current predicament. He was paid a Wilt-tall stack of spendable money in a signing bonus last year by the Eagles, more than $10 million. There will be no beef-and-beers held on his behalf.

You can say that and still recognize the man's unique journey. In the last 13 months, Kolb has gone from backup to starter to backup to bereft, all without moving a step. He is the same person and the same player. It is the world around him that has swirled uncontrollably - or, rather, uncontrolled by him.

And now, in the third month of the NFL's lockout, his is the name that seems to be the most talked about in the business.

It is hard to go more than a couple of days in any national publication without another dissection of Kolb's fate.

Somehow, he has become the face of the lockout.

Here is a small example:

Yesterday afternoon, ESPN.com put up a blog post with the headline, "Poll: Reasonable price for Kevin Kolb." The post was actually a promotional vehicle for another story on the site, which also went live yesterday. Its headline was, "Kevin Kolb worth the risk for Cardinals." Accompanying that story was a shorter item with the headline, "Potential Kolb Suitors."

(For the record, the odds listed were 2-1 for Arizona, 10-1 for Seattle, 100-1 for Miami and 1,000-1 for Cleveland.)

But back to the blog post, which was really just there to pimp the story. It also was accompanied by another Kolb item. This one was the aforementioned poll: "How much should Seattle or Arizona pay for Kevin Kolb?"

(After about an hour-and-a-half of voting, the plurality was that two second-rounders was the proper compensation.)

At the bottom of the blog post, there was a series of links to other Kolb stories. The headlines on those were, "Where Kolb fits in the NFC West," "The case against Kolb," "The case for Kolb," and "Kolb and the Cardinals."

So, if you are keeping score, that is five blog posts, one story, one poll, and one ranking of potential destinations.

All there for the clicking.

All on one site.

Multiply that now by some pretty big number and you begin to understand what is happening. In the absence of news, Kolb's job seems to have become the filling of all information vacuums. Every hint, every hiccup, every false rumor, produces this cavalcade of speculation disguised as information.

He is a quarterback with some ability. He works for a team that has decided to go with Michael Vick instead of him. He also works for a team that is not shy about playing the drumming-up-a-market game when the situation arises.

And because there is no free-agent market, and little conversation about player movement during the lockout, the result has been this desperate need for something to talk about. So why not Kolb?

He already lost his job once through no fault of his own. Now he is losing his opportunity to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. The fates, and the labor lawyers, seem to have conspired against him. Now we are all just left to guess, and only too happy to do so, on every available information platform.

There are other people who will be affected more severely by the lockout, but they have neither names nor faces. The people who will be hit the worst are the undrafted free agents who will never be signed - and, even if they are signed, who will never have the minicamps and OTAs that those players need to make an impression.

The odds against their survival are significant, without either a pedigree or some kind of sponsorship within the organization. It takes time to convince people who didn't think you were worth drafting that you are worth keeping in September. That is what the lockout steals from them, time.

It is different with Kolb. The lockout does not steal time from him as much as it steals validation. People debate his worth, and that is fine. But this was going to be the time when everyone in the NFL could evaluate the tape and have a chance to make an offer. Then we would really know what people in his business thought about Kolb.

Instead - and this is the best case - Kolb will end up going someplace in a kind of shotgun wedding during a hurry-up free-agency process. But there is a chance that he will go nowhere. If this were to be settled in late August, and teams had about 2 weeks to get ready for the season, there is a chance that no one will want Kolb because there just won't be time to reasonably assimilate him into a new system.

There is no prominent player more affected by this lockout than Kolb.

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