Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Preseason

In today’s lesson, I offer some thoughts about the preseason.  Should you care about the preseason?  Well, yes and no.  If you want to learn more about the game and how it’s played, preseason games provide additional opportunities to watch, which is the best way to learn.  However, you won’t get a good feel for the speed and flow of the game.  What the preseason is good for is personnel drama.  For many players, particularly rookies and those newly hired in the off-season, training camp and the preseason games are part of an extended job interview.  Just because you were drafted or bought by a team doesn’t mean you will stay with that team when the season starts.  And just because you make the team, it doesn’t mean you will start or even play.  There are just over fifty spots on each team’s final roster, and only eleven starters on offense and eleven on defense.  Considering that teams typically have 80+ players in training camp, you really have to work hard to stand out.

Personnel issues will be particularly interesting this year. Because of the labor lockout, team training camps are much shorter than usual.  This means that players have even less time to impress coaches.  This includes rookies right out of college that were drafted by the teams in April. It will be interesting to see which rookies can earn a starting job. One rookie to watch is Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Carolina Panthers.  Plus, some teams have battles at particular positions among veteran players. The Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos are two teams with quarterbacks vying for the starting job.  The Redskins traded Donovan McNabb to the Minnesota Vikings, opening up a competition for the quarterback job between Rex Grossman and John Beck. In Denver, the battle is between Kyle Orton and second-year Florida Gator sensation Tim Tebow.

So, feel free to catch a preseason game or two.  Just do me a favor and don’t watch more than the first quarter of any preseason game.  After the first quarter (and maybe even a team’s first possession), the starters (the stars) sit down.  If you watch too long after that, you’ll probably decide that football is too boring and give up.  Worse yet, you’ll stop reading my blog!

Oh, and if you get a chance, I recommend trying to watch practice at a training camp near you.  It’s your best chance to see players in action (and get autographs!) without paying $500 for tickets, parking, food, drinks and souvenirs.  Not that they don’t sell those things at the camps, but you won’t need to take out a second mortgage to pay for them.  Your local NFL team should have a schedule of days when their training camp is open to the public.

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