Early last week, Giants quarterback Eli Manning told a gathering of reporters at OTAs that, now seven weeks out from ankle surgery, he was healthy enough to play if the season were to begin the next day.
Some 1,500 miles away, Tony Romo was unknowingly paraphrasing the words of his NFC East contemporary. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback, several months removed from back surgery, explained to NFL Media's Desmond Purnell that he'd reached a point in his recovery where he could "go out and play right now if (he) had to."
Both veterans had leaned upon one of the most sturdy answers of this, the most relentlessly optimistic portion of the NFL calendar. "Don't worry about me, fellas: I COULD PLAY IF THE SEASON WERE STARTING. Now please point your iPhones at the guy limping away from the cold tub."
In TV, a trope is a plot trick, narrative structure or character that's instantly familiar. You've seen it before because it's been done, many times, with only the slightest of tweaks to the origin source.
The NFL has its own tropes this time of year -- I Could Play If The Season Were Starting being just one of them. The spring is full of hyper-familiar storylines you've seen in the past and you'll see in the future.
Here are nine more:
THE OFFENSE HAS NEVER BEEN FASTER
True story: Every team believes a new offensive coordinator is the savior. With one iPad full of brilliance, he will heal all that previously ailed his disciples. If only football were that simple.
PLAYER X: I'VE NEVER PLAYED WITH SOMEONE QUITE LIKE PLAYER Y
This usually is a quote coming from a veteran on the team who's been impressed -- blown away, even -- by a recent acquisition. The lovefest is in full bloom.
INJURY-PRONE PLAYER X BULKED UP IN OFFSEASON
If a team has an important player coming off a season in which he missed extended time, you can count on hearing about the new workout regime that will keep him from becoming known as the NFL's version of Mr. Glass.
Aaron Rodgers provided a nice variation to this trope when he picked up yoga, rather than dumbbells, during the offseason.
PLAYER X: I HAVEN'T BEEN THIS HEALTHY IN YEARS!
An off-shoot of the bulk up narrative, here the player with durability issues declares that his body has, at long last, been given the proper amount of rest time to fully rejuvenate itself. This story usually ends with Player X limping to the sideline after taking a helmet to the thigh on the first day of full-contact drills.
PLAYER X IS BETTER NOW THAN BEFORE SERIOUS INJURY
Fact: Adrian Peterson returned from major reconstructive knee surgery as a superior football player. Another fact: There is only one Adrian Peterson. Everybody wants to come back exactly as they were, but reality isn't always so kind.
STAR PLAYER: WINNING IS AWESOME AND THAT'S ALL I'M REALLY ABOUT, GUYS
A popular storyline that comes out of the media's first availability with a team's signature star, usually the quarterback. Said player just wants to end this springtime media engagement as soon as possible.
COACH X: WE'RE EXTREMELY IMPRESSED BY CAMP BODY Y/FADED VET Z
Remember what I said about this being the most relentlessly optimistic time of year? This goes double for coaches, who believe everyone in their building can be turned into Walter Payton or Dick Butkus.
PLAYER X UNSURE IF HE WILL ATTEND MINICAMP
If you're an established player unhappy with your current contract, the default move is to tell the press -- or have your agent leak to the press -- that you just might sit out mandatory minicamp if you don't get a new deal soon.
Of course, the inherent flaw in this move is the fact that mandatory minicamp is, you know, mandatory and that sitting out these workouts costs you money ... which is what this was all about in the first place. I don't get it.
MIDDLING TEAM X WILL SHOCK THE WORLD
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Around The League profiles 25 players (like Minnesota Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes) primed to enjoy breakout seasons. **READ**
A personal favorite. An over-excited veteran -- his nostrils flush with pheromones of Optimism Season -- declares his team of misfits is about to put the NFL on notice.
This trope was perfected by Panthers offensive lineman Ryan Kalil, who in the summer of 2012 took out a full-page ad in The Charlotte Observer promising a PanthersSuper Bowl win.
Carolina started the ensuing season by losing eight of their first 10 games.
In the latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast," the heroes talk "Hard Knocks" before delving into a new batch of rookie whispers.