[Editor's note: This has been a week of new writers and today I'm pleased to introduce yet another new contributor to the site: Griffin Gotta, formerly the editor of the student newspaper at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Griffin will be covering the Packers and Bucks and get his MSF archive started with a peek inside the football-obsessed mind of a Packers fan.]
Despite what it may begin to feel like on your neighborhood ESPN Family of Everything, training camp is not the start of the NFL season in the football world.
Training camp, in my hometown of Green Bay at least, is millionaire grown men, spectacular athletes – if we forget Tyrone Davis from a few years back – stuffing themselves into dorm rooms like the ones I used to occupy (though they’re probably not attempting to sneak beer in via duffle bags), hunkering down, and getting re-acquainted with hitting one another, which one believes doesn’t take all that long.
There just isn’t much to say about it other than that. Sure, there are the position battles, the question marks, the rookies and the holdouts, but we don’t see too much of that. We see and read the daily results and ultimately what the coaches decide, then we get ready for the real stuff.
Training camp is the introductory course, the one you have to take, cruise through, and attend infrequently in order to get to the higher level coursesL the ones where you may actually learn something, the ones that matter. In other words, the regular season.
With that said, I’m going to try and do my best to avoid previewing the Green Bay Packers 2010 NFL campaign until Week 1 gets closer and things become a little more important. It is hard, though, to not just dive in and go over the possibilities for this team and the year ahead. The reason I can’t, not yet at least, is because the players – the guys in those green and gold uniforms – just began training camp. They need a little more time.
They’re just starting Introduction to Sociology.
In my life, I never got the chance to ease into this relationship. You are in Green Bay and you are a Packer fan, dammit! Why wouldn’t you be? Is it fall, is it getting colder? Then you and your week are living and dying with Sunday afternoon (sometimes Monday night, whatever) and that final score.
Win, and the week is fine. Throw whatever you want at me World, the Pack won; I’m good, I’m on cruise control. Whatever else is going on in sports, or in life, you have that, “well, at least the Packers won” whisper in the back of your head for the week.
Lose, and the sky is seems to be stuck on cloudy and The Pit is in your stomach. I can’t read the weekly web sites I usually do, I don’t like watching sports-related TV because The Pit shows up, and these things only make it worse. I don’t want to hear about it. Better to watch Arrested Development on loop.
I should note that no one has ever sat me down and lectured me in this manner. I haven’t gotten the you’re-going-to-be-a-coal-miner-like-your-father-and-you’re-going-to-like-it talk. One, because it’s not a movie based in a small town during the 1950s; and two, because the feeling is there, it’s palpable, you don’t have to go looking for it. (Although if I weren’t a Packer fan, I’d probably have been sent to an offshore reformatory school for boys in New Hampshire or something. Either way, it was a good choice on my part.)
This is a roundabout way to say that although players can steadily prepare themselves for the regular season with training camp and preseason, fans can’t. It’s all one big, long journey. Once the uniforms are back on, even just practice uniforms, it all returns to the forefront of the brain.
It begins. See you later, off-switch.
And all that stuff – the position battles and question marks and such and such – that I tried to say didn’t matter? Well, I should clarify; it shouldn’t matter – not to the extent that it does, at least – to us…but it does. Because right now, it’s all we’ve got, and yes, we’ve been waiting a little while.
I can’t wait anymore.
So why not? Here are five Packers to watch as we climb the first rung on the 2010 season’s ladder: training camp.
I should note that after typing my first player to watch, I stared at the name for about five minutes, asking myself, “Really? Him?”
Yes, we should watch Mr. Harrell because there’s a decent chance it’s the last time we will be able to. If he can’t stay healthy this training camp, he could be finally – mercifully – released by the team. So quite literally as early as the first day of training camp you could be seeing Justin Harrell for the last time on a football field in a very long while.
Oh, and also, because Johnny Jolly is gone, there’s an opening in the defensive line rotation; so Harrell could actually, you know, contribute or something. It’s now or never.
To put it simply: if you’re watching him pace the sidelines again, his 53-man roster spot invitation might get lost in the mail.
Everyone in the secondary other than Charles Woodson
I can only assume that the forgotten Defensive Player of the Year (everyone seems to think Revis won the thing), Woodson, will be avoided more than he was last year. And if that ridiculous playoff game – which is The Pit in my stomach, if you couldn’t guess…more on that game in the regular season preview – taught us anything, it’s that Jarrett Bush is not to be trusted. Not with covering the slot guy, or knowing the general vicinity of the ball on a given play, or probably even remembering the specifications of a Jimmy John’s order.
Tramon Williams looks like our best bet, hopefully joined by guys like Pat Lee and rookie Morgan Burnett stepping in and assisting Al Harris as he recovers from his season-ending knee injury last year. For some reason, I have a pretty decent feeling about our secondary, probably just because of Woodson. He’s awesome.
Maybe Craig Hentrich is some closet shaman within an ancient tribe that uses voodoo dolls and turns victims into walking zombies, and after leaving Green Bay he cursed our punter position for eternity…because I can’t think of many other logical reasons as to why the Packers cannot find a punter who looks like he has any idea what he is doing.
I’m not going to bother listing the punters on our roster at the moment; I don’t k now them, and neither do you. I’ll say this, though: shanked punts are one of the more underrated momentum deflations in a football game.
Damn you and your voodoo, Hentrich.
I’ve never had a huge problem with Ryan Grant, although there is a contingent of Packer fans who do, but I don’t think anybody would argue that our backfield needs, well, something. Obviously the rookie running back from Buffalo slipped because he didn’t play the entire 2009 season, but one thinks he will get his chances during training camp to solidify a major contributing role.
My friends and I saw Kevin Greene driving on the highway once. We knew because of the “GBP” license plate that it was a member of the Packers organization, but it wasn’t until we came up next to the vehicle that we realized it was him.
Greene and his giant forearms were driving on the highway, listening to an iPod with an expression that would turn Medusa into stone. His music must be so powerful that the rest of humanity probably shouldn’t hear it, and he knows this.
Anyway, he’s our outside linebackers coach, and I can’t imagine how many times during a game he wants to spring onto the field and rip someone’s spinal cord out; it’s probably a lot. I went to only a handful of training camp practices last year, and every time I went, the special teams coach had his megaphone in tow, passing instructions for punt coverage and the like. Kevin Greene did not need a megaphone to be heard by everyone in those stands. He is intensity personified and seems like a perfect fit for to coach outside linebackers in a scheme that requires them to blitz heavily; being slightly deranged can be used for good.
And there you have it. I just listed an assistant coach as someone to watch for, and I meant it. When does the regular season start again?
* – Photo credit for Packers fan: AP via SI.com