ESPN, FOX and NBC are all airing games this Pre-Season. And, if you are a seriouus fan and have the NFL Network, you can see EVERY NFL Pre-Season matchup. I don’t know about you, but after a summer filled with CBA tension, I am totally, completely and joyfully ready for some football! It’s bad enough to have to wait from February until August to see our valiant gladiators take the field. But this year we were also forced to put forth tremendous amounts of energy in keeping up the sometimes seemingly vain hope that there WOULD be a 2011 season. And that, let me tell you, was exhausting! But sanity at last prevailed and here we are: it’s August and footballs are flying. Thank goodness.
Every year I go through this with my less NFL-addicted brethren (is there such a word as sisteren? Probably not – and why not? But I digress.) Why should we bother to spend the last month of summer watching games that don’t count? Who cares about seeing some guys who’ll be back selling insurance in a week? Well, my friends, here are just a FEW of the reasons that we should all give a —- darn—- about football in August.
We have a chance to see to see our stars in action again after the horrible dry season of spring and early summer (no offense to Arena and the CFL, but seriously). We all love any chance to see that Ray Lewis is still an athletic marvel and everyone wants to catch the latest Michael Vick moves. Okay, we all know that this is really a marketing tool by the league to sell more tickets and get TV revenue – but it does serve a useful purpose as well. Players who’ve been injured or had down seasons get to prove they are still weapons in the game. Or not. Remember that a coach might rest someone coming back from injury, thus keeping him a mystery to opponents. For every fan’s sake, I hope that this is at least part of the story with Peyton M. But, by and large, all players need some pre-season action to get ready for the real deal.
We true football fans also like the obvious advantage of seeing the new crop of rookies (the so-called “players of the future”). Pre-season is the ONLY time we get to watch these young guys really perform within the game plan. Anyone who has seen the few fourth quarters played by Ryan Mallett and Greg McElroy feel the thrill of secret knowledge – we have glimpsed the future of the Pats and Jets. And it’s looking pretty exciting.
Watch the back-ups. Anyone who watches football knows that it can be a game of attrition as the season progresses. In fact, thus far in 2011 teams seems be “attriting” right before our very eyes as more than half a dozen big name rookies are already on the shelf for their entire first years. Quarterbacks and running backs are the most visible examples of players whose absence can affect the outcome of a contest. But in today’s NFL every position needs depth – often a difficult thing to come by in the days of the salary cap. The perfect example of this is again the Colts’ QB situation. I feel so very sorry for Curtis Painter. The two times that he has been given the reins – well, let’s just say that it hasn’t been productive. So unproductive in fact, that the Colts just pulled Kerry Collins away from his living room couch to take over the offense. Uh, yikes! Even more important to watch are the offensive and defensive lines. These positions rotate anyway during the game and depth is absolutely essential. If your team’s Lines struggle too much in the fourth quarters this pre-season – look out!
Special Teams Free-For-All! This is one of the most entertaining aspects of pre-season play. It combines some of the excitement and abandon of college ball with the awe-inspiring big play potential of professional athletes. (Yes, even with the new 35-yard-line kickoff rule.) As the commentators never fail to point out, these are desperate young men anxious to either make their team or audition for pickup by another franchise. They play all out on special teams and there are some amazing moments of dazzling speed and physical courage.
Off-Season Changes or “Jason Taylor is playing where?” OK – we’ve achieved parity. Usually at the price of consistency. With a few exceptions, players and coaches rotate around the league. This makes pre-season an indispensable opportunity to catch up with the teams. Every year teams have questions: does the coach need to protect his job? did they fix their defense? can the second year players fill the gaps in the O-line? You can get a very good idea of the answers to these questions during the pre-season.
So, drag yourself away from the pool for a couple of hours and keep your eyes on these pre-season plays and players! Pull out the popcorn machine, break out your favorite dip recipe, twist open a beverage—AND HAVE A GREAT PRE-SEASON!!
Here’s what happening on YOUR Team: