DANGER: Training Camp Overreactions Ahead
As a high school football coach, a former player, and an avid NFL fan, nothing excites me more than the start of the football season. Players, both rookies and veterans, arrive at camp eager to strap on the pads and begin the long haul towards September, when the real action begins. The end of July and the warm August nights mark the beginning of every NFL fan's favorite time of the year, and training camps across the country are the icing on a rather delicious cake.
As fans though, we can't eat all the cake at once; we have to savor the flavors little by little, enjoying every bite rather than shoveling the entire cake down our throats. In terms of Training Camp, its too early to make broad assumptions and predictions about our teams after one bad practice or a rash of ugly scrimmages. The cake has just come out of the oven, so let's give it time to cool and set before we dig in. There's plenty of time left, and plenty of cake to go around.
I try to take this approach while scouring Twitter and the internet for the latest training camp news and analysis. When I see that Christian Ponder and the Vikings wide receivers had a bad Saturday practice in Mankato, Minnesota, I do my best not to freak out and overreact. My instant reaction is, "Crap, another subpar year is in the works for Minnesota's 31st-ranked passing offense." But then, common sense kicks in, and I'm reminded that we've only been through TWO full practices. With a receiving corps in transition and chemistry slowly forming, bumps and bruises should be expected. Not even Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Aaron Rodgers (Yes, its hard to admit, but he's a stud) are expected to be perfect this early. Let's slow down, take smaller bites, appreciate the little things.
Part of my mindset comes from my experience coaching. While Varsity summer practices hardly compare to an intense day at Vikings training camp, football at any level is still football. Two practices in, our quarterback took the wrong steps, overthrew receivers, fumbled snaps. Receivers ran into each other on route combinations and watched balls bounce off their chests (I don't know how many times I've yelled, "catch with your hands!".) At Vikings camp, I read of receivers dropping balls, linebackers overcommitting to gap assignments, and even seasoned veterans jumping offsides. At any level, mistakes happen, especially this early into the process. As a fan and a coach, these missteps and miscues should be tolerated, as they'll be corrected and forgotten about on the road to a better overall product.
So, if Mark Sanchez is still making bad reads in 7-on-7 drills, your first-round draft pick hasn't arrived at camp yet, or Darren McFadden isn't touching the ball enough in scrimmages; don't fret. We're at the beginning of a great campaign, one that will end at MetLife Stadium with your team hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy. As cliche as it may seem, every rep counts, but its early, and the growing pains will work themselves out. Let's take training camp for what it is; TRAINING CAMP. With that, enjoy all the news and analysis! I'm sure I'm not the only one rummaging through hundreds of Twitter feeds and counting down the days until the first preseason game!