It is clearly that training camp time of year. The frustration that has been building up after months of inactivity is finally being released as football fans finally have a chance to discuss their favorite subjects as the players take back to the field – at least, some version of it. 90-man rosters have gathered from all over the country to start building foundations that, in the case of one team, will lead to Super Bowl glory. A quick glance to any social media platform will send the message loud and clear: football is (almost) back.
And while impatient fans hover eagerly over their laptops, smartphones or tablets, reading up on the slightest bit of news about training sessions, the capacity for wishful thinking kicks into over-drive. It is the time of year when EVERY team starts showing Super Bowl potential, when EVERY rookie is a Hall of Fame prospect, and when EVERY franchise seems to take a gigantic leap. Reports are already coming in, for example, of Sammy Watkins being the next incarnation of Superman – lofty expectations indeed for a player who is yet to play a snap in anger. And, naturally, after being starved of success for so long, Rams Nation is emerging from its annual hibernation by anointing the latest squad as the one that will lead us from the depths of despair that have become all-too-familiar.
The early reports of the Rams’ first few days of training camp have revolved mainly around three main players. Rookie Aaron Donald, for example, has received a great deal of attention due to his speed and strength, seemingly turning every “opposing” offensive lineman into a turnstile. Players are gushing about his abilities, and the coaching staff is bigging up his obvious potential. Likewise, Kenny Britt’s comeback tour seems to have got off on the right foot, with the receiver startling many with his big-play ability. This has been mirrored by Brian Quick’s performance in camp, with many fans declaring that the former second-round pick is FINALLY living up to his billing.
These reports have all been followed by the bubble-bursting disclaimer reminding fans that this is training camp and players are far from the front-line competitive experience that cannot be accurately simulated in advance. Most players are not even wearing pads yet. Coverages are soft and the pressure is lifted in order to avoid injuries. Plays are repeated, with regular stops for debriefs from the coaches. In context, one must not get very excited about these reports, or even about comments from coaches and players – after all, what else are they going to say? Interestingly, while these positives are being given significant attention, little is being said about the troubling reports concerning Janoris Jenkins’ struggles in camp. Instead, we are getting excited about how great our special teams units looked.
And this is only natural, especially for fans of a franchise that has had little to celebrate over the past decade. We are desperate for good news, and if Brian Quick catching a touchdown pass in practice over an undrafted free agent gets us excited about him being the next T.O. (remember those comparisons?) then so be it. We will re-read those disclaimers, but we will largely ignore them in an attempt to finally feel good about these blue-and-gold jerseys. As far as I am concerned, any player who cleanly fields a punt in practice is welcome to marry my daughter, and I already have an ‘X’ next to Kenny Britt’s name for the next presidential elections. We have been starved of winning football for so long that I am perfectly willing to invest my current excitement in these early reports, aware as I am that this could make any eventual disappointment even worse. I feel I have earned this and, if only for just a few weeks, it feels good and optimistic to be a Rams fan again.