The sweet smells of fresh-cut grass and sweat under the sun of June and I am not talking about how you smell after cutting your yard. I am talking about NFL organized team activities (OTA’s) and the smell of hope that hangs in the air over every training camp. As passionate fans we flock to the open mini camps to see our favorite players as well as see the new faces that have entered the mix either by free agency or draft picks. Regardless we are there for the hope of the new season and the expectations that come with it.
In every franchise hope is abundant during the June OTA’s. Coaching staffs are hopeful that General Managers and scouts have given them the players they need to make a run at a championship. For some staffs new faces have replaced old ones and the hope for a fresh start. Being a life long Atlanta Falcon fan, I am hopeful of our new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and our new offensive coordinator Dirk Kotter. Hopeful they will be able to get the dirty birds that first playoff win under head coach Mike Smith.
It’s a time of hope for the players as well. Returning veterans are coming in to hopefully establish themselves at their position or gain a prominent leadership role within the locker room. Rookie draft picks are coming in with the hope of fulfilling a life long dream of playing in the NFL. They are also coming in hopeful they can become starters in the upcoming season. My favorite group of players this time of year is the undrafted free agents. The reason being these are the players that were good enough to get scholarships at the major college level and many of them were captains of their teams and some leaders in stats and in the locker room, but they don’t stand out as NFL starters. During the 2011-2012 NFL season, the New England Patriots had 18 undrafted free agents on their roster and a good many of them were starters. In my opinion, being able to find quality depth for your team is as much a key to winning in the NFL as having quality starters. So, I am always hopeful the scouting staff for the Atlanta Falcons can bring in a group of guys that will be able to step in when called upon.
The return of OTA’s and soon training camp are signs to all us fans that the new season is right around the corner. To many of us it can’t get here soon enough so we wear our favorite NFL team colors during the summer. During the time when supposedly baseball is king, but we all know that is a lie, because football for the passionate NFL and college fan is a year round passion. A passion we pursue with a great amount of hope. Hope, at least for me, that all the players come out of camp healthy and without injury. Hope that diamonds in the rough are found and my team will have the next Bruce Smith, Reggie White, or Jerry Rice. Hope that this season your team will have a better record, make it to the playoffs, actually win a playoff game or hope that your team will win the coveted Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. So while some may hope for rain, more sun, or vacation, we, the passionate fans, will be hoping for the beginning of the new season and hope never disappoints.