Finally! Training Camp is Here…
The long summer offseason is finally nearing its completion, and the NFL will begin their training camp sessions this week. In the months of May, June, and early July, a majority of the news surrounding a franchise was unfortunate.
The Browns were no exception, considering:
– Rookie seventh rounder Armonty Bryant’s DUI (after he has been arrested selling marijuana in college)
– Josh Gordon’s two-game suspension (for violating the substance abuse policy) to begin the 2013 season
– The ever-evolving news surrounding Pilot Flying J’s alleged rebate fraud and the status of CEO and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam (including the potential financial ramifications)
These seem bad (and they are) but other franchises have had their own issues as well:
– The Aaron Hernandez arrest for (alleged) murder in Connecticut
– A pair of DUIs for the Denver Broncos’ front office (including a former general manager of the Cleveland Browns)
– Multiple suspensions by several athletes for either violating the substance abuse policy or failing performance enhancing drug testing
Alas, now it is time for the players and coaching staff to get back to work. (Thankfully Mingo signed his contract and the Browns’ rookie class is complete.) Minicamp sessions have dealt more about with the cerebral part of the game; i.e. learning the new offensive and defensive schemes and techniques, etc. However, the next few weeks of practices and preseason matchups focus on the physical execution of the given assignments.
Besides the obvious battles for starting spots, fans will get an early glimpse at which athletes improved greatly from last season, have a ways to go, or remain status quo. Rookies are typically a bit more complicated, because each player is in a unique situation and (depending on where they were taken in the draft) progress can be measured differently.
At this point in the season, each team has a ninety-man roster (or just less than twice the final roster). There are many to be cut before the regular season opener; the importance to analyze each member not guaranteed of a spot cannot be underestimated. Regardless of position, if a member shows brilliance on a daily basis, he will find himself on the team. Politics may come into place (athletes acquired by the current regime versus those signed by previous management), but at the end of the day it still comes down to performance and a player’s value to the team.
As is tradition, there is roughly a week and a half of practices until the first preseason game against the St. Louis Rams. Although games are great measuring sticks, not each player will be evaluated evenly (with playing time being sporadic). The coaching staff should have a good gauge on a fair amount of the roster. That being said, should two players at the same position be rated evenly, the guy who makes a play in a game might get the nod.
Injuries factor in hugely in training camp as well; take for instance Trent Richardson last season. The rookie runner missed all of camp (and preseason) following his surgery, only to return in week one. In the meantime, the team worked out Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya – each established their niche roles and employed them in the regular season. The season-ending Achilles tendon tear to Chris Gocong was a hit to the Browns’ linebacking corps in 2012. In his absence, a few younger (Craig Robertson, L.J. Fort, and James-Michael Johnson) athletes saw playing time. Hopefully an similar instance does not occur in 2013, but it appears this squad is better prepared to handle that situation.
In the coming weeks, I look forward to seeing and hearing about who stands out in practice, what to expect with the new offense and defense, and what the overall tone is. From the onset, players appear to be really supporting this new coaching staff – I am who believes a change will be beneficial. Hopefully an upbeat mentality, a familiarity of the professional game by multiple starters (who are no longer rookies or second-year pros), and being in ideal situations will allow this team to finally turn the corner.