1. I have been away for a week, on vacation in the far reaches of Vermont, but not the far reaches of cell phones and email. This break typically occurs the week before training camp opens, but the lack of ability to schedule it there this year was not going to stop me. If any of you know of a place that has limited cell reception and spotty wi-fi, do yourselves a favor and spend a few days there every year. Don't worry--I was back in time for the big game last night.
1. Every year, I swear I will never watch the Hall of Fame game again. Every year during the first weekend in August, I find myself in the fourth quarter of a glorified scrimmage, played mostly by guys who will never see the field during the regular season for any franchise. The Hall of Fame game is that glass of dirty, yellow, murky water that the NFL serves up in August to a bunch of people so thirsty that they will literally drink anything.
2. Speaking of beggars not being choosers, let us get back to living and dying on every controlled down on the practice fields in Richmond. This is the time of year when I like to suggest that it is ridiculous that we get so worked up over guys in shorts and no pads, while simultaneously getting worked up over individual plays and players during these sessions. To be fair: a new coach, a recently rehabbed quarterback, a new offense, a high-priced free agent wide receiver, a recently-added cagey veteran safety and a reshuffled offensive line are all reasons why we are hanging on everything going on in Richmond.
3. Just when you thought that there would be no more talk of soccer in this space, this thought comes to me: at what point does the NFL do what some of the top soccer clubs in the world are doing? As we watch teams from some of the top professional soccer leagues in the world all get ready for their regular seasons in the States, I wonder when the NFL decides to put its preseason on the road in Europe. You could place enough teams in camp over there to have some excitement and an abbreviated schedule of games. If Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid (to name but a few of the most valuable and popular sports franchises in the world) can do it, don't tell me the Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins can't manage it (to name but a few middle tier NFL franchises).
4. There will never be a substitute for the Hall of Fame game--and I mean that in both a good and a bad way. There will never be (or should never be) a less polished NFL game on national television than the one we see every August from Canton. When a couch potato like me is screaming at the fifth-string running back for missing his blocking assignment because even I know that he was supposed to pick up the blitzing player from the right side, you know that the product is...diluted. We'll keep the HoF game for ourselves. I don't know about you guys, but I could live with shipping off a handful of games from the first week of preseason to Europe.
5. Imagine if you took four teams (at first) and had them set up their training camps in four major European cities. You could run a couple intrasquad scrimmages and then schedule a pair of games on the same weekend as the HoF game. The time difference should allow for a full day of programming in the U.S. on Sunday, with the HoF game acting as the final contest of the day. Think of the opportunity that would present not just the big names in the league who could potentially find some footing in the European market, but also the guys who likely won't make the team. Making the 90-man roster that travels to Berlin, or London, or Paris, etc. could be the kind of experience many of those guys would otherwise never be given.
6. This all leads me to the recently created tradition here at Hogs Haven. I had the good fortune to travel to Richmond last Thursday for the first day of training camp. Due to terrible weather, practice moved indoors and became less of the "reason for the season" as the day wore on. Willing participants met at Gus' Bar and Grill on Broad Street to toast the beginning of yet another campaign. Special thanks to the Lowe family for adopting me for the evening and many thanks to Paul Conner and Alex Rowsey for joining me from our writing team. I look forward to next July, when we will be back again to do the same thing. I look forward to many of you joining us there in what will be the Second Annual Hogs Haven Campaign Kick-Off Extravaganza and Toast (SAHHCKOET). The name is under construction.