As I step out the front door this morning, I can't help but notice a different feel to the day, a different smell in the air. I walk to the car and I'm wondering, is it the freshly cut grass, the scent that comes after a heavy rain, or maybe it's the blooming flowers. I place the key in the ignition and back out the driveway. My mind is restless and I feel rejuvenated on this warm summer day. Then it hits me... it's football season. The smell, this feeling, why I'm smiling like Opie to people I don't know, and lending money to that family member that you know is never going pay you back.
Now, this feeling will not hit most of you until late August or early September. The reason behind the difference is that unlike me, your football season doesn't start until week 1 of the NFL regular season. My season and the seasons of other NFL fans who can't get enough football starts in the next 2 or 3 weeks, depending on your teams training camp dates.
The purpose of this article is to help the fans that say training camp and preseason games are too boring to pay attention to. I'm going to try to show you how to enjoy training camp. I live in Houston, Texas and I attend every open training camp of the Houston Texans. I watch as players fight for starting positions, rookies try to impress, free agents try to show why they were brought in, and bubble players fight for a roster spot. This is the making of your team and you get to witness it up close and personal!
The stuff you witness with your own eyes, you won't hear or see reported by the mainstream media. Last year I found out how a 39 year old defensive tackle could make the Texans roster. I walked in the gates as soon as they opened and went to the practice fields and waited for the players to come out. While waiting, I noticed someone off to the second practice field working out and he looked like he had been there for a while. I walked over there closer and noticed it was 39 year old veteran Jeff Zgonina. He was there every day on the field an hour before any other player and an hour after every player. I never read an article from any media outlet reporting the desire of this man.
So, you're still not convinced. Well let me tell you about the intensity of these practices. I stood just yards away at a Texans vs. Saints mixed practice as a scuffle broke out between Jeremy Shockey and DeMeco Ryans. If that's not football then maybe you should go back to watching futbol. Let me tell you about watching last year as Jacoby Jones burned every cornerback that tried to cover him. Everyone at those practices noticed and was talking about how much better he had become as a wide receiver. We all know how that turned out during the regular season.
I remember going to the first day of training camp and noticing rookie cornerback Glover Quin seeming to be able to hold his own, but getting lost from time to time. Then at the last open training camp he appeared ready to start in the nickel. Quin will be the number 1 corner on the team this year and I was there to watch his first practice. You are seeing your team being built at these events. Don't miss out on this.
I could go on for hours about all the storylines at training camps, the festivities for the kids, the player interactions after the practices, and the atmosphere of being around other loyal fans of your team.
So, if this is your first year going to a training camp, I'm going to tell you what to watch for.
- The player interactions with their coaches and teammates. See who is helping the younger players and who seems to have an ego when the coaches try to correct mistakes.
- Player developments. If you can't tell if a player is running a good route or dropping into coverage well, then just watch as they go back to the huddle. If their positional coaches seem to get on them after a play, chances are they aren't picking up on something right.
- Watch their interactions after the practices. See if they give back to the fans or if they are collecting their money and taking it to the locker room. This is important to me. I don't know if it is to you or not, but I wouldn't let my kids support someone who didn't appreciate their support.
- Water. Find the water stations, especially if you are in the south. This heat will jump all over you and as a result you will develop and new respect for these athletes.
- The rookies. College football fans should be following all the players out of their alma mater or favorite school. I can tell you every Clemson player in the NFL.
Try to enjoy the preseason in 2010. After all, you'll be complaining in February about how fast the season went by, so here's a way to lengthen your season. If you give this a try, then maybe in a few weeks you'll awake to the wonderful aroma of FOOTBALL SEASON!!! - Jayson Braddock
Jayson appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX once a week as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk.