The preseason can't start soon enough. And not just for the most fervent of fans who flock to training camp outposts like SUNY Cortland and Anderson University to catch a glimpse of the first sign of football in months.
In a few days for some and roughly a week for others, rookies will report to their teams. Soon after that, veterans will arrive, and it will all begin. Pads will be smacking, balls will be zipping ... and executives and coaches will be exhaling.
Players will be under their watchful eyes, following strict schedules and adhering to even stricter curfews. They will be away from their friends and families and hometowns and situations filled with potential trouble.
Bryant turned himself in to DeSoto, Texas, authorities on Monday after he was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence from a Saturday incident. Lynch was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence on Saturday night in Oakland, Calif. For both players, it was not their first time garnering unfortunate headlines.
For both teams, it was a potential black mark on an otherwise productive and inspiring offseason. The Dallas Cowboys, with their slew of free-agent pickups (led by cornerback Brandon Carr) and their blockbuster draft-day trade to land Morris Claiborne. The Seattle Seahawks, with some USC-style recruiting that netted Pete Carroll and Co. coveted free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn.
The promise these two teams hold in 2012, no doubt, will be discussed when the helmets start cracking. Now, so will the questions about Bryant, Lynch and what it all means. Immediately noteworthy: Will both players be on the field when the season begins or will the NFL's personal-conduct policy plant them on the sideline?
Lynch previously had his license revoked in 2008 for failure to exercise due care toward a pedestrian after he hit a 27-year-old woman and kept driving. And then in 2009, Lynch missed three games because of a weapons charge. Meanwhile, Bryant was held by police (but not arrested) after a fight at a Miami nightclub in January. Another turn with the law doesn't bode well for either player.
ATL: Bryant discipline complicated
From opposite parts of the country, front office personnel are likely grinding their teeth about Bryant and Lynch. For countless other franchises, it's been the same story with their wayward player. (The Denver Broncos are currently holding their breath with Elvis Dumervil facing a charge of felony aggravated assault.) No, it's not everybody. Far from it. And no, no one knows if either Lynch or Bryant will be found guilty. Both are simply charged.
This isn't to judge them for incidents about which too little is known at this time. It isn't to assume the worst and castigate. It is merely to say, neither team needed this. Neither team worked all offseason with intentions of taking the next step in 2012 to suddenly walk into a roadblock marked by yellow police tape.
For Dallas, Bryant had shown signs of hitting his stride. He had taken the offseason program seriously, worked himself into shape and planned to move closer to the facility. He looked to improve on his 928 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last season to become quarterback Tony Romo's go-to weapon. Now, the same refrain about his maturity (or lack thereof) can be heard.
Dez Bryant's attorney, Royce West, was still gathering the facts Tuesday morning, and said it's still very early in the process, with a court hearing yet to be scheduled.
"The situation is that Dez does not want this to be a distraction for the Cowboys," West told NFL.com. "Whatever the issues are that are involved, he's going to get them dealt with. And needless to say, he's going to be cooperative with law enforcement to get those resolved. The fact of the matter is, he has never ever been arrested for anything involving these types of allegations at all. And so, obviously it comes as a shock having to be fingerprinted, but reality is that he's going to work his way through this and be prepared for the season."
Elvis Dumervil's Miami arrest for aggravated assault could spell trouble for what was a very positive Bronco offseason. Dan Hanzus writes. More ...
For Seattle, with a quarterback situation presenting endless questions and possibilities, players could always look to the backfield and feel good. So good, in fact, that the Seahawks just rewarded Lynch with a four-year, $31 million contract in March. His career-high 1,204 yards on the ground last season was the team's security blanket. What now? Kregg Lumpkin doesn't provide the same feeling.
In addition, the first few days of training camp will undoubtedly be wrought with questions about off-field behavior and distractions. By talking about distractions, these situations will become just that. The battle to focus starts.
So yes, teams are counting down the days until players report. They are clearly pining for the time when on-field news trumps what happens off the field.
Long story short, the season can't start quick enough.