Hope is in the air!
The opening of NFL training camps serves as an annual and exciting reminder that the new season is just around the corner. While the on-field work carried out in searing heat has always been exhausting for the players, it is a time of great hope for fans across the league. In July and August, everyone is allowed to dream of Super Bowl glory!
Players and coaches fight through long and exhausting days during training camp, referring to the essential preseason work as "the grind." While it varies from team to team, players tend to be woken around 6am and eat breakfast before undergoing treatment. Team and positional meetings fill the morning before the first practice of the day (typically a walk-through of plays lasting two hours) takes place. Lunch is next where each of the players will have allocated meals and macro breakdowns that are measured and allocated based off position and current body composition ahead of their goals for the season, following that is by a brief rest period before the players don the pads for a more physical afternoon practice with key routes plays and bocking patterns all run through in immense detail. Once that on-field work is done, evenings are filled with more meetings, dinner, recovery and very limited free time before it's lights out around 10-11pm. Rinse and repeat six days per week for a month and you have what life if like in training camp.
Return of the vets
Training camps are a huge chance for rookies to earn their spot-on teams rosters, as well offer fans a chance to see their favorite star players up close and peronal ahead of the new season. Well, that is the case so long as the player in question is happy with his status on the team. Some bigger names who are unhappy with their contractual situations can use a training camp absence as leverage in ongoing negotiations with management. That is a risky approach, though. Training camp attendance is mandatory, and players can be fined $50,000 per day for any unexcused absence.
After a Covid stuck season in in 2020, which saw all pre-season games cancelled, 2021 promises to be back to normality as each NFL team will play three preseason games this summer. These exhibition games mean nothing in the win-loss column and veteran players are often protected from the hitting. But preseason games offer tremendous 'live action' opportunities for young players looking to make an impression. Teams are also holding an increasing number of joint training camp practices with other squads to further fuel the competitive juices over the summer.
Jobs on the line
"Coach wants to see you in his office. Bring your playbook." Those are the words a player never wants to hear during training camp. While August is a month of great excitement and anticipation for fans, it can also be the time when a player is told that the dream he has been chasing for the past decade or more is officially over. Each team has 90 players on its training camp roster which is cut to 53 by August 31 in time for the start of the regular season. While some will end up on the practice squad and continue to train with the team, others reach the end of their football line.
No offseason story has been bigger than the fallout between quarterback and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Will the superstar show up when camp opens, or will he show his public displeasure and stay away? There are quarterback jobs to be won across the league as Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill battle to replace the retired Drew Brees in New Orleans, while rookie Justin Fields will attempt to steal the job away from veteran Andy Dalton in Chicago. Training camp will also see familiar faces in new places as quarterback Matthew Stafford takes charge of the Rams, while star receiver Julio Jones joins the Tennessee Titans. There will be many other stories and talking points to keep us entertained between now and the season kickoff on September 9. Here we go!