The grind of the preseason is coming to an end and the even longer road of the NFL regular season is on the horizon. Football fans from all over the world are gearing up for what promises to be seventeen weeks of gridiron excitement, with many league stories already unfolding. Here are just a few interesting happenings around the NFL as we get ready for the first game on September 10. That game will feature the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the New England Patriots.
The game has numerous stories, not the least involving Tom Brady and whether he will play or not. Everyone is aware of the mayhem “DeflateGate” has caused and the most surprising thing about the story is it is still going on! They are endlessly debating Brady’s suspension for his alleged involvement in the controversy and it has not yet been determined if he will lead his team on opening night. There is over a week to figure it out, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this story continues through the beginning of the season.
On the Pittsburgh side, they are dealing with the fallout from their recent acquisition at the back-up quarterback position. Given their history, it would seem unlikely that the Rooneys and Michael Vick would ever come to terms. But come to terms they did and Michael Vick showed up in a Steeler uniform during a recent pre-season game in Buffalo. He did well that day but it is too early to tell if he will be embraced by Steeler Nation. There was quite a reaction from local fans when the announcement was made that he was going to play for the team. There were some demonstrations outside of Heinz Field and the local sports radio talk shows were focusing on it constantly.
There are other things that these two teams need to concern themselves with besides the inevitable distractions. The management, coaches and players should have only one thing in mind; how to get to Super Bowl 50. That should be the goal, because there are thirty other teams striving for the same trophy. This is a landmark year so hopefully the sideline shenanigans will take a back-seat to the more important business of playing the game. If only it was possible to return to the days of Lombardi and Shula, when it was more about the sport and less about the off-field indiscretions.
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The end of July means one thing to football fans and that is the return of their favorite game. Training camps are officially underway and it is almost time for preseason football. They aren’t the same as regular season games, that is clear; but they are better than continued waiting for the next season to start. This is the time of year when several teams who could have a chance at a Super Bowl run begin to ramp up for the season. They all realize that a strong and productive training camp is key to long term success during the season. The preseason is a great opportunity for the new players to learn the system and show how they can contribute to the team. Recent draft choices will be vying for jobs against free agents and seasoned pros. It is an exciting time for the league, players and fans.
This year the first preseason game features two historic teams. The annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio will host the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Minnesota Vikings. This is especially interesting since both a Steeler (Jerome Bettis) and a Viking (Mick Tingelhoff) are being inducted this year. The game should be entertaining, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leading Pittsburgh’s offense. They will be fun to watch this year since Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant proved last year that they are a formidable duo at wide receiver. Running back Le’Veon Bell will be out to start the season but the Steelers brought in veteran DeAngelo Williams to carry the ball in his absence. On defense, the Steelers are without long time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau who was replaced by Keith Butler. Their defense is always strong though, especially at linebacker with Jarvis Jones and newcomer Bud Dupree.
The story around the Minnesota Vikings always seems to revolve around Adrian Peterson lately as he returns to the Vikings after his recent troubles. He has a restructured contract and is looking forward to the 2015 season. Their quarterback is Teddy Bridgewater, beginning his third year as a pro. Veteran Shaun Hill will also get some playing time. The Vikings have a strong corps of defensive backs like Terence Newman and a wealth of wide receivers including former Steeler Mike Wallace.
This game will be a great start to another exciting football season. The Hall of Fame game is traditionally the beginning of the next chapter in the long history of the National Football League.
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