I always played the games, no matter what it was, to win. It was simply because I loved to compete. Whether it was marbles, pool, baseball, basketball, track running or playing football, I was going to give it my all. That drive, intense desire and love for the games was innate.
Some writers use to call me a junk player because when we were getting blown out, I continued to play hard and make plays. My feel is if you’re going to play then give it all you got, no matter what the circumstances are.
To play or not is generally the consideration or thought going into the preseason games. If a player is going to play, then the next question for the team is how much does he play. Most players want to know how much they are playing and will bug the position coach to no end to find out.
I had a different approach. I didn’t care how much I played. I went into the game like it was a regular season game. I wanted to get my timing and feel for my lineman. When it was time for me to be replaced, I wanted to play more. To me, the players that love the game want to play in the game and want to win whether it’s pre or regular season.
One thing about playing to stay healthy and trying to keep guys healthy is what you think about most is what tend to become. It becomes your reality. Yes, we all want our players or better said our good players, to be available for the opening of the regular season.
You have to play football to be ready to play “good” football. So, if they don’t play in the preseason, then they won’t be as sharp OR in the type of shape that is needed to play consistently good football when the regular season rolls around. Generally, when players get tired they lose focus, so mental errors show up and the potential to get injured increases.
While watching the first few games, see if big mistakes late in the game, cost some of your teams. Check for pulled groins, calfs and hamstrings that may show up on injury reports.
They talk about the running back position as a position that’s prone to injury. Check the next injury report and see whether other high profile positions are present. It’s an occupational hazard.
I feel it’s a by product of the approach in training camp and the pre-season. Then there is acceleration into the regular season. If your players haven’t been playing much, if at all, in the pre-season then go into the regular season playing 50-60 plays, have they been prepared.
The two a-day practices are a thing of the past. This keeps guys from developing the stamina needed to play as well.
When you can practice like its a game then also play the preseason like it really means something, better football is played and the potential for injuries and fatigue mistakes will be decreased. The reason you have depth and good coaches that develop players is called next guy up.
In reality how wise is it to not play or practice the guys to get them ready. Watch the teams that played their starters. Players can get injured walking across the street.
There was a lot of evidence regarding the players not being in shape. Guys taking knees as well as taking themselves out of the game.
There is one other aspect that needs to be addressed. The coaches are out of shape as well. The evidence can be seen in the number of timeouts that has to be taken just before the ball is snapped. The TOs are needed by both offensive and defensive coaches. Just as with the players, the coaches need the experience of the pre-season to get acclimated to game speed. The TOs that they are taken early in the first and second half will eventually cost teams when a two minute drive is needed and the team is either down in time outs or out of them all together.
As the season progresses, if a player does not get injured they will get into better shape and should play better and more sustained football. You will also see less TOs taken by coaching staffs as they will also improve and be able to gauge time and situations better. Players and coaches either get better or they go home while the teams that get off to a good start and build on early success, go on to the play-offs. The growth process is continual.