NFL camps to open in sweltering conditions
Until the NFL shortens its preseason, there will be one goal in late July and early August.
Unfortunately, nearly every team sustains significant injuries, some of which can be devastating for the regular season. Coaches and general managers will curse under their breath when they lose a key regular, then claim the “next man up” policy will take care of the problem.
Sometimes, they are right. Often, the swearing becomes more intense and louder.
As teams settle in at sweltering training camps this week, playbooks are distributed (digitally, of course), rookies and other youngsters try to catch the eye of decision makers, and fans wonder what their teams will look like in early September. And beyond.
Except, perhaps, in New England.
Some things to keep an eye on until the Packers and Bears kick off on Sept. 5 to open the league’s 100th season.
Brady, yes; Gronk, no
We’re not likely to see much of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady until opening day. We won’t see any of his buddy and standout tight end, Rob Gronkowski, whose battered body caused him to retire.
It’s a big blow for the soon-to-be 42-year-old Brady, who somehow manages to overcome such obstacles.
“Yeah, it’s the first time in a long time and he was such a great player for our team,” Brady says of Gronk. “I think like any season, things are different and we’re going to have to adjust differently and teams are going to play us differently without him. We’ve seen it even when he’s been on the team.
“That’s got to be a position of strength even if it’s not one player but multiple players doing different roles. There were times in my career before that where we had similar approaches. No one’s going to make any excuses for our offense, we’re going to do everything we can to be the best we can be, score every time we touch the ball, and the tight end position’s a big part of our offense and those guys are going to have to do a great job for us.”
Those guys include veteran Ben Watson, who also was ready for retirement before opting to come back to New England. But Gronk’s absence is the most critical difference for last season’s champions.
When the spinning stopped, new head coaches landed in Tampa, Miami, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Arizona, Denver and New Jersey.
Bruce Arians, Buccaneers — One of two hires with previous head coaching experience (Adam Gase is the other), Arians is charged with developing the talent and instilling maturity in Jameis Winston. The quarterback never has lived up to his top overall draft pick status, but if anyone can push Winston toward elite status, it is QB whisperer Arians.
Brian Flores, Dolphins — For a while, it looked as if Miami was ready to tank this season as it reorganizes from top to bottom. But this is not the worst roster in the league. Still, Flores has to prove a Belichick protege can succeed as a head coach.
Matt LaFleur, Packers — Aaron Rodgers isn’t the easiest superstar passer to work with, so keep an eye on the transition in Cheesehead Land. The offense should be pretty good if A-Rod is healthy, so the biggest chore is upgrading a previously unreliable defense.