Training camp is almost upon us. Excitement is running high as all the recriminations from 2008, draft jabber, and minicamp drama fades into oblivion. Real live football is just around the corner. Everyone is excited about it, and the temptation is to get carried away with every report from every practice. We are so starved for football, that we can go over the top in our enthusiasm or angst this time of year. Here are your 18to88.com approved rules for navigating the preseason.
Rule #1: Pray no one gets hurt.
Rule #2: Pray no one gets hurt.
The past two Colts seasons have been derailed from training camp on by injuries. In 2007 we lost Booger McFarland. Last year, we lost Ryan Lilja. The injuries only mounted from there. Injuries have stolen two seasons from us (especially 2007 which might have been the best Colts team of all). If this team does not stay healthy, Peyton will probably still win us 10 games, but I fear once again there will be no post season glory awaiting.
Rule #3: Don't worry about preseason results.
It's been well documented that over the past few seasons the Colts have lost more preseason games than regular season games. If you want to truly gage where the team is, worry about the following quarters of preseason games:
Game One: Quarter two. The starters will probably play about a series in the first quarter. It's great to watch, but means nothing. Don't worry about it. Don't draw any conclusions from it (good or bad). Watch the second quarter. That's when most of the young players who have a real chance of being contributors are playing their best minutes. I would expect to see some Donald Brown in this quarter. The second half is usually mop up duty staffed largely by guys who won't make the team playing against other guys who won't make the team.
Game Two: Quarters two and three. Cuts are getting closer. The starters might play the whole first quarter, but it's still not an issue if they look great or if they struggle. There will be some good play in the middle of the game as guys desperately attempt to make the roster.
Game Three: Quarters one through three. This is the key game. The starters might play as much as a half. If things are a mess during this game, it's time to be slightly concerned. Remember that stat about how bad the Colts are in the preseason? They are 5-2 in the third game since 2002 (that includes a loss last year when Manning didn't play). The third game is the one to watch.
Game Four: Quarter one. Just remember Rules 1 and 2. Pray no one gets hurt.
Any analyst who says he likes or dislikes a team and cites their preseason record (not how they played) can be immediately disregarded.
Rule #4: Don't get too attached to anyone based on practices
It's tempting to go to camp and fall in love with a player. Colts fans have turned Roy Hall into the Sasquatch of the Colts for several years. Every year people expect him to break out in a big way. Aaron Morehead was a similar case. When Morehead finally got his chance in 2007, it was a disaster. Camp is a great place to scout players and figure out who is an up and commer. Just don't go overboard. Try to keep an even keel. The coaches know better than the fans what performances are real and what aren't.
Rule #5: Don't read too much into preseason rotations
Don Brown might start a preseason game because the Colts want to see him work with Manning (who sticks around for a series or two). Don't assume that means he's the #1 running back. The same goes for Garcon or Collie. Reggie Wayne might hang out for an extra drive with Jim Sorgi. In the preseason, coaches have a unique agenda that has nothing to do with winning games. They won't play a player who is even lightly dinged up. Don't turn preseason rotation into a game of reading tea leaves.
Rule #6: Bust out those #12 jerseys.
If you are a Jim Sorgi fan, now is the time to show your pride. The dude will be everywhere for the next month. Then, God willing, we will repack him in mothballs until the Buffalo game. While on the topic of Sorgi, one of the hottest issues is always, "When will Sorgi get cut?". Every year, we expect some young Brady wannabe to unseat the Maytag man. Every year, Sorgi hangs on to the job. This year, beat the rush. Announce your undying admiration of Sorgi now. He's probably not going anywhere.
Rule #7: Read Phil B Wilson's blog
Huzzah! Phil B. Wilson is back. No matter how you feel about the IndyStar, the best service they provide to fans is a daily dose of Phil B. He'll keep you informed and up to date. He does a great job of having his finger on the pulse of what is real and what is mirage surrounding training camp.
Rule #8: Never pay full price for a preseason ticket (if you can avoid it)
Preseason is a great time to bring kids to the Luke. When I was young, we would arrive hours before kickoff and snag autographs from the players coming out to warm up. They were very obliging in the preseason. My Jeff George autographed rookie card is proof of that! If you are a season ticket holder (like Demond and I), you have to pay for preseason games. I'm sorry. I empathize. If you are not and you want to go to a game and bring your kids, just go down and try and scalp tickets by the stadium. I seriously doubt you'll have to pay face value. Better yet, find a friend that has season tickets and offer 20 bucks a ticket for his. He'll probably kiss your feet. It's always great to go to a game, but especially for smaller kids, the regular season can be loud and intense. Plus, who wants to miss plays while dragging a 6 year old to the bathroom? Go to the preseason game, bring some youngsters, just don't pay face value to do it!
Rule #9 Come by and visit Demond during the games.
It's preseason football. You're bored. He's bored. He's probably lonely, because he couldn't give away the other tickets. Stop by section 616, Row 8, seats 1-4 and chew the fat. He's anti-social and awkward to talk to, but whatever. It beats watching the third quarter. If you bring beer, it'll help both of you get along a lot better. Come to think of it, can someone give him a ride home? Don't bother him during games that count (unless the Horse is up by 30) or he'll kill you. Again, unless you bring him beer.
Rule #10 Pray no one gets hurt.
Seriously. As long as everyone is healthy when Jacksonville comes to town, all is well.