The inexorable march through the dregs of the offseason continues.
While the NFL scrambles to produce a coherent plan for (supposedly) pending training camps, fans, still stuck in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, are essentially in limbo. We’re treated to the latest accounts of NFL player-based Twitter wars. The torrent of badly-conceived TikTok content hasn’t been stemmed. Fans are overeating, drinking entirely too much, and are overly-sensitive about their teams, their political affiliations and their lives in general. This sort of behavior is usually observed in fans after November, although I suppose it’s never a bad time to be drunk and obese.
A less obese D.J. Reader is anticipating added quickness due to his working off 27 pounds during the offseason. Reader, the Bengals’ biggest (in every sense) free agent pickup, is expected to line up next to stalwart DT Geno Atkins and seal off the middle, which he should still be fully able to do at a svelte 320 pounds. The returns on interior linemen dropping weight to enhance quickness are anecdotally not very good, as it usually seems to bring an absence of power along with it. We’ll have to see if Reader’s example bucks the general trend.
Regarding the NFL’s guidelines for opening training camps; one AFCN coach is not happy with the expectations the league has placed on teams for safe operations. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made his feelings known during an interview yesterday, and it’s hard to argue with some of his points. American football is fundamentally a physically-taxing contact sport; without the physical nature of the game being observed and mitigated in the guidelines, it’s hard to imagine players will be able to experience anything remotely similar to an actual game experience. Training camps will undoubtedly suffer anyway due to this offseason’s lack of cohesion/communication, as will the regular season product due to a lack of adequate preparation. Assuming the season begins as scheduled, fans can expect an ugly on-field product for the first few games as teams adjust to the effects of their lack of offseason work.
In a recent interview, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey fervently stated his certainty the NFL will open as scheduled in the fall, citing the need for league and personal income, as well as his belief players will have to essentially ignore basic COVID-19 prevention measures in light of cold and flu survival rates (a specious argument at best, as the article notes). Regardless, Pouncey is correct about the ongoing desire to get back to work; few players have hinted they’re unwilling to play at all, and most seem content to wait and work out privately until a coherent strategy for virus mitigation is adopted throughout the NFL and by the NFLPA. Good luck with that decidedly-tedious balancing act.
Fox Sports commentator and general antagonist Colin Cowherd sounded off yesterday on a familiar target for his ire – Browns QB Baker Mayfield, coupled with Cowherd’s belief that Mayfield will be “fired” if he fails to perform adequately this season. While this author thinks Cowherd’s rantings generally aren’t worth the time it takes to summarize them, he isn’t wrong in his theory that new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has no obligation to Mayfield if he doesn’t perform well; Mayfield is not Stefanski’s “guy”, to use the typical jargon, and it’s assumed he would have no restrictions to moving on from Mayfield if it suited the team more effectively. Mayfield is already under significant pressure to perform well to prove last season’s lackluster effort was a result of epic mismanagement by deposed head coach Freddie Kitchens, despite Cowherd’s vapid projections of failure and false equivalence points with other successful teams. Good luck, Baker. At minimum, this space is hoping you bury Cowherd’s predictions in a mass of useful, irrefutable statistics.
Enjoy the week!