This week marks the start of NFL Pre-Season, when all NFL players return from their summer off and get back to practicing for the 2014-15 season. Wondering why it matters and what it means? You’ve come to the right place.
I would say that I know a fair amount about sports. I don't, however, know a player's RBI in baseball and I often can't tell you who rushed for the highest yardage in any given week during the NFL season. What I do know are the majority of the rules, team structure and scoring options. I would never win Trivial Pursuit by answering an off the wall sports trivia question, but I like to at least know what is going on in the world of sports and what it means culturally. So, ladies, here is what the NFL pre-season Training camp means to the players, to the fans and to you.
To Players: Veteran players, meaning those who weren't cut from the team at the end of last year, and the new guys, those selected in the draft or picked up in free agency at the conclusion of last season, all report this week to their team's training camp. Rookie (the new guys) usually report a few days before the veterans (the returning players). Most often, they play at a university, their year round practice facility or locations on the outskirts of their fan reach. For example, the Ravens play at their year round practice facility just outside of Baltimore, but the Washington Redskins practice in Richmond, Virginia approximately 90-miles south of the Nation's Capitol.
The players convene to acclimate to the new guys, learn plays and practice as a team, before the official season begins. Pre-season provides the returning players a chance to get back into shape and serves as the period for evaluation for the younger players. Just because they were drafted or invited to pre-season camp does not guarantee they will wear a team’s jersey when the regular season officially kicks-off on September 4, 2014. The first game always kicks off at the home stadium of the team who won the previous year’s SuperBowl (an exception in 2013 when there was a conflict with the Ravens/Orioles game schedule). This year’s game will kick off at CenturyLink Field, the home of the 2014 Super Bowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks.
Pre-season is broken up into different segments. The first is scrimmages, where the team plays it's own players against one another. Sometimes, two practice sessions are held on the same day, knows as two-a-days. Other components of training camp include drills, meetings with both coaches and other players at one's position, weight training, and pre-season games where they suit up and play another NFL team.
Games and scrimmages played in pre-season do not affect the team's standing or stats once the official season begins. While there is a winner of each pre-season game, it has no impact on the overall record for the 2014-15 season.
Rules for the upcoming season that have changed and/or implemented:
- The goalposts will be extended five feet higher to 35 feet.
- Players' legs will get more protection from side impacts.
- The play clock will no longer stop on a sack.
- The recovery of a loose ball is now reviewable.
- Referees are now able to consult with the league office during reviews.
- Players will no longer be allowed to dunk over goal posts.
- Player conduct will fall under greater scrutiny.
To the Fans: Fans are often able to visit their favorite team's training camp to watch practice. Admission to practices is often free or substantially less expensive than a game ticket, making training camp trips a popular option for fans who cannot attend many game. Teams often sell souvenirs, snack and have fan/player interaction to make training camp a more fan-friendly experience. I would recommend checking the team's website if you are interested in attending. Head to the NFL website (here) for more information on team locations and exact dates for when the players officially return.
To You: Knowledge. If you heard about pre-season but had no clue about what it really meant, now you know. And when it comes up at happy hour or over coffee in the morning, you will be prepared to better understand and contribute to the conversation. Anything I missed or questions you have? Leave me a note below or shoot me an email.