Training camp is fully underway for all 32 NFL teams, and football fans are always ecstatic this time of the year. One of the many treats about training camp is that fans are given access to attend certain practices and watch some of the grueling position battles.
Following practices, eager fans wait in line with memorabilia either worn or in their hands in hopes of having some of their favorite players sign it. Most teams hold training camp in an area where fans have to deal with the sweltering heat for hours before getting those autographs, and those players reward those fans, giving them something to smile about when they make the long drive back home.
It is a special time for fans because they know the preseason is coming soon and the regular season is just around the corner. But there is something that I have always disliked about training camp.
Before I say what that is, I want to explain why I feel this way and the perspective I am coming from.
As much as I am a fan, I am also a sports journalist, so I tend to be objective. More importantly, even though I love my Kansas City Chiefs, I am a realist. When a team is struggling, some fans have the notion that they should still be positive and supportive of their team. That is okay. Some fans believe that a team should rightfully be criticized when things get ugly. I fall in the latter, after all, if someone is being paid millions of dollars to underperform, fans have every right to form a negative opinion, as long as they truly believe in that opinion and can back it up with facts.
With that said, I want to go back to my “beef” with training camp.
I feel like the activity on the field in training camp is blown out of proportion. Some players get way too much hype.
I read tweets from fans and reporters as well as media reports on how a player, who not many people knew of before, made an electrifying play in camp.
Keep in mind, this player made that glorifying play against some unheralded backups. And those backups are likely to get cut. Their chances of making the 53-man roster are very slim.
When I hear a certain player makes a magnificent play in training camp, especially when it is against second, third or fourth stringers, I take it with a grain of salt.
Don’t get me wrong. When that player makes a nice play, it serves them well in the eyes of the coaches. At the same time, I’m sure those coaches know that one jaw dropping play won’t promise them a spot on the 53-man roster and that the flash needs to turn into consistency. That unknown playmaker will strengthen his chances of making the team, and he will soon become known to the fans.
If a player makes that big play in the preseason games against a first-string player, then the hype is for real.
As a Chiefs fan, I want to use one example. Bobby Sippio.
Sippio was an all-star wide receiver in the Arena Football League for the Chicago Rush. He won an ArenaBowl with the Chicago Rush and was named first-team All-Arena in 2007. Later that year, Sippio gave the NFL a second chance when he signed with the Chiefs.
The same year, HBO brought back its popular NFL training camp show, Hard Knocks. Hard Knocks goes in depth with one NFL team and its training camp and preseason moments with some special behind the scenes activity that not even the local media can capture.
When the Chiefs were on Hard Knocks in 2007, Sippio was highlighted and became the star of the show. Through good editing, Sippio looked like a 10-time Pro Bowler. His activity in training camp was great, but he only made the highlight reel when he faced backups who got cut.
He made the team in 2007, but saw very minimal action. In 2008, he scored two touchdowns in four preseason games, but they all occurred late in the games when teams are already using backups who are unlikely to make the team.
When the Chiefs worked on their 53-man roster, Sippio was an unfortunate casualty.
Point being: the hype is overdone. The media will publically note a player’s big play, but fans take that out of context and take it as if he’s secured a spot on the team.
When it comes to training camp, these are the things I look for:
1. How coaches are getting the team ready
2. How certain players are doing while trying to bounce back from a recent injury
3. Whether or not players are missing repetitions because of injury
4. Position battles as those are always big
5. What I said earlier, if an unfamiliar player is building his way up
I understand not everyone has the mindset I have when it comes to sports, and that’s perfectly okay.
When I covered KU football for student media at the University of Kansas, I didn’t make a big deal when sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart dominated KU’s defense in the 2014 Spring Game. But many KU hopefuls think Cozart has the secret to making KU competitive just because of one glorifying scrimmage. As much as I love my alma mater and hope I am wrong, KU fans are in for a big disappointment (and will want to hit the fast forward button to basketball season.)
Keep in mind, training camp is a fun time for football fanatics, but don’t overhype everything. The real hype begins in Week 1 of the regular season.