NFL Preseason: Waste of Time or No Time to Waste?

Scores of NFL fans and some media members think the league’s preseason is a complete waste of time. (I hear the odds makers in Las Vegas want to see a few games to solidify their Super Bowl predictions, but I digress.) The preseason is actually a glimpse of what a team will look like athletically and physically, and what the team will look like from an organizational standpoint. Anticipation and timing on offense, plus tackling skills on defense, are monitored, too.

But in the end, it’s more about getting some quality work against another opponent and getting out of the game without a major injury. The stats are not officially kept by the league or the teams. For the players competing for a spot on the 53-man roster, though, they are fighting for their lives, and a chance to be among the 1,696 players that make up the leagues 53 man rosters.

Coordinators on both sides of the ball work to fine-tune their play-calling skills – while not showing their strategic possibilities for the regular season. They hold themselves back from using their toys and putting them on display too early, giving the competition and fans just a flash of what is to come.

The head coach, meanwhile, fine-tunes his routine, from pregame warm-ups, to in-game management, to the victory kneel-down. He gets the bugs out of the in-game communication with the staff, refines clock management and makes sure that the new rule changes in 2013 don’t result in a penalty for his team when it matters most.

With 32 teams in the NFL, and all having a different flavor when it comes to football philosophy during the preseason, the question becomes, is it a waste of time? Or, is there always a sense of urgency, with no time to waste? Some squads look to score as many points as possible, work hard to game-plan for their opponents and go undefeated during the four-game stretch – which means absolutely nothing. Other teams work to get timing and anticipation within their offense, and read reaction while running to the ball with good tackling skill set on defense. Coaches will work on the basics and push their teams to be aggressive while putting them in position to be productive on first and second down offensively and get off the field on third down defensively. They want to be very efficient in all three phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams).

Trainers, of course, also get into the act, packing boxes of tape, gauze, wraps and preparing for any and all medical issues as if it’s the regular season. Team doctors represent the crew that is (hopefully) not called upon too often, other than for minor injuries. The equipment staff fills trunks full of jerseys, pants, socks, helmets, shoulder pads, thigh and knee pads (mandatory for all players this season). And, let’s not forget about the hundreds of pairs of shoes for multiple surfaces, as well as the personal items for all 90 players currently on the roster.

Training camp is almost in the rear-view mirror. The sweat poured onto the turf or natural grass under the sweltering heat has players settled in and ready for the 2013 preseason. Regardless of coaching and team philosophy, the Hall of Fame weekend is over. The real games are nearly here, and all NFL fans are ready to welcome back football with open arms.

Rams Notes

Defensive back Matt Daniels on Monday practiced for the first time.

“When you go through what he went through from a rehab standpoint to get to this point, he’s in good shape,” Fisher said. “It’s unlikely he’ll play Thursday night, but he’s got a chance to play after that. He’s really done a nice job.”

Fisher was also asked if he intended to devise an intricate game plan for this week’s matchup against Cleveland.

“Not necessarily, we’re just going to carry some basic things into the game,” he said. “And we have to prepare for their defensive front out of fairness to our guys and our QBs, so we’ll do that and try to keep things simple and just play.”