The excitement of the opening night of NFL preseason football has subsided a bit and focus now shifts for a dozen clubs towards Week 2. Coaches dissect the game tape, looking for technique and assignment flaws that will eventually lead them to their final 53. Players hope for more opportunity in the next matchup, a chance at redemption for a missed assignment or poor performance.
Tighten it up
Football operations will do their best to tighten up as well; video with an out of focus endzone shot in the third quarter, equipment brought the wrong shoes for a particular player, trainers continue to break in a new seasonal intern with stepped up responsibilities.
But 24 hours after the first preseason game can be downright nasty for General Managers. Months of careful calculating has led to the assembly of the current roster and after two weeks it’s time to hit on somebody other than your own teammates. Scouts need something they can sink their teeth into for an accurate evaluation of how their players perform under “real” game conditions.
The long and winding road
The draft process, free agency and the resulting contract frenzy keeps a GM jumping for the better part of 6 months. Training Camp is a chance to see it all come together, to sit back and enjoy a little payback for all your offseason efforts. You want to capture a feel of how the squad reacts to certain situations, is the talent good enough at certain positions, will your veteran additions step up? (Read my post, 5 Things to look for in a NFL Preseason Game.)
And then sometime during the first quarter (usually when your starters get their lone shot Week 1), there’s an injury timeout. You’re grabbing your binoculars and hollering “What number is it? Do you see who it is?” It’s inevitable, you expect injuries. You build them into your plan, into your budget, into your backups on the depth chart. You figure you’ll get a report the next day with a few names, nothing of concern and nothing that will hold you back as you move forward to Week 2.
Are you kidding me?
But to lose a player in the first fifteen of Preseason Week 1 is just unconscionable. “Not now, not him.” It’s one of the primary points of opponents of the preseason – needless injuries. They take their toll on your team, your plan, on the player and his career (short & long term). They cause question and anxiety, force tactics and strategies. They’re cause for secrecy and deceit. They create opportunity for youth, and drag on your cap budget. Yep, the 24 hours after Week 1 of the preseason can be a downright drag for a GM.
Just quickly scanning the stories I saw;
- QB Mike Vick PHI – Thumb (X-Rays NEG)
- LB Dane Fletcher NE – Torn ACL (out for season)
- RB Ryan Mathews SD – Broken clavicle (out 6 weeks)
- LB Desmond Bishop GB – Knee sprain
- DC Davon House GB – Shoulder
- OT Mike Adams PIT – Knee
- FB David Johnson PIT – Torn ACL (out for season)
Vick has struggled with thumb injuries in the past, not a good place to be hurting as a starting QB. Fletcher and Johnson can both be scratched when “torn ACL” is attached to the injury report. Mathews is a key component a Charger offense and team that has to show movement for both its head coach & GM. Bishop and the rookie Adams are both starters, and the prognosis is still a bit cloudy as to the severity.
So what do you do as a GM? Out is out. They get placed on IR, you take your cap hit, pick up a roster spot and move on. Those with a chance of returning either gut it out for a few weeks and you’re short at the position. Young players looking to make the team are likely now on the cut list and staring at an Injury Settlement (a small payment and a polite pat on the head).
As GM you better have prepared. You’ve got your Emergency List of candidates; some to stay no longer than the end of camp, some former high dollar vets on the backend looking for a last chance, some nothing more than journeymen mercenaries – the situation now ripe for their own. And so your phone rings on and on. “The best laid plans of mice and men” and NFL GM’s.
Yea, football’s here! Preseason Week 1! Unless you’re looking for a “new starting LB” to replace your “new starting LB”… Preseason Week 2.