The NFL has cancelled the preseason games. For the most part, nobody cares. Preseason doesn’t mean shit to most fans, and for the starters on the roster, they couldn't care less. The veterans, starters, and high round draft picks are comfortably on a team and happy right now. Hell, if I happen to go to a camp this year, my 30-year-old self will be happy too.
However, my 23-year-old undrafted self hates the news. I hate it for the boys who weren’t drafted this year. I'm sure even the low round guys are feeling some stress right now, along with everyone else who might see themselves on the “bubble." This year, there won’t be three games to potentially showcase the piss and vinegar that lies inside. And without an offseason or OTAs, the priority will be on getting the starters ready to play. There won't be any time for developing players which means reps and opportunities will be very few and far between. Rosters are going from 90 down to 80, so unfortunately, 10 guys on every roster will be getting phone calls from the "grim reaper" before being given any opportunity whatsoever.
I'm one of the boys who are FOR the preseason games. They matter. The reason they matter is because coaches need to see you do it when the bullets are flying. No one is out there during a game holding your hand and scripting plays for you. It’s an opportunity to execute what you’ve been learning at practice, prove that you can communicate with your teammates, and get it done with tempo and poise. Unproven guys, especially low rounders and undrafted rookies, need these opportunities. I wouldn't be where I'm at in my career without those opportunities. If this would've happened my rookie year I would've been cut, selling insurance, and posting on Facebook all day. LMAO... Facebook.
The mountain is steeper to climb and the grinders of the league are going to have to get craftier. So here's my unsolicited letter of advice to them... to us.
To the grinders,
Sometimes it won’t matter how well you perform in practice. Coaches will be hesitant to take a chance on you when they can easily cover their asses by putting in a high draft pick or a proven veteran. They have a job to get those guys ready - they are considered a "priority." And you mean nothing to them. Yes, you’re going to witness those privileged bastards, who are ahead of you, get away with more and it’s going to make you salty and bitter. You’re also going to think that you’re better than them. This shit is more of a mental game than anything else. It’s going to be hard and you will constantly doubt yourself. But that’s the game, and you have to embrace that salty Wolf mindset.
There’s money and politics involved everywhere. It’s not going to be about your grind, progress, and journey to anyone except you. Coaches aren't going to have their arms around you because, honestly, they all have a preconceived idea of what they want their position rooms to look like. They will preach "competition" like everyone is equal. *FART NOISE* Don't listen because you will just drive yourself crazy wondering what your coach is thinking. Some things will be hard to swallow (no pause). Your position coach is going to teach you something, you’re going to execute it, and then the coordinator is going to come in the room and question what the fuck you’re doing and the position coach is going to throw you under the bus. That’s the game, baby! Especially if you have a new, young coach. God bless you if that’s the case.
From one undrafted wolf to another, these would be my tips looking back on my experiences and what my salty ass has learned over the years from others:
- STFU and lay low. Listen, I love to talk and circle jerk with the boys as much as the next man (no pause), but no one likes hearing a rookie speak. A phrase I always heard was, “don’t speak unless spoken to.” Keep your head down, laugh at some jokes, and keep it moving.
- Study your balls off. Understand each install inside and out. Shit is going to be moving fast, and if you haven’t already been studying all summer, then you’re behind the 8-ball. You should probably just stop reading this if you haven’t been studying. Turn in your iPad now. You will be going through multiple calls a day so it’s imperative that you stay on top of your shit. Easy core values to go by: know what to do, know how to do it, play fast and aggressive (s/o Vrabel). If you don’t have those first two down, you’re gone quick.
- Do your rookie duties. Don’t be that fuckin' guy who’s too prideful to fulfill some rookie duties. Those dudes suck. “Oh somebody gonna have to see me.” Sweet, dude. It’s all a part of the journey and building team camaraderie. Get the coffee, get the snacks, perform a good skit, and be for the boys. It’s not that difficult. The Richie Incognitos are never going away. Your balls will get busted and understand it happens with everyone. We all need to learn how to make fun of ourselves anyway.
- Notes, visualize, and game film. I can’t stress preparation enough. That’s your advantage. With limited reps, those reps need to be on point. You need to game plan the hell out of your own team. Who gives a shit who you're playing Week 1. Everything needs to be about the few reps you get against your own team during practice. That means watching every rep of practice whether you’re in or out. Go through each rep in your mind as if you’re in there. I’m telling you, one bad fuck up and you won’t be thought about again.
- Routine. WRITE YOUR ROUTINE DOWN. You're going to be hype going in on Day 1. Figure out your routine from wake-up to bedtime. Morning activation, body work, studying alone, watching film, rehab, supplements, whatever you do throughout the day... log it all with time stamps and refine it as you go. Why is this important? Day 1 Will Compton is going to be way more motivated and mentally hype than Day 20 Will Compton. You need the structure in place so your "feelings" don't allow you to deviate when shit gets hard.
- Laugh about everyone saying to get to know the Special Teams Coach, but then low-key get to know the Special Teams Coach. All you will hear about is how you can make the team through Special Teams and to get close with the Special Teams Coach. It's true. If you're not a starter and you need to know how you're doing, just check the Punt Team depth chart. The most important Special Teams unit is the Punt Team. If you're in the top two units there, you're doing okay. If not, you better ask the coach how he likes his coffee and go get some extra learning in with him. Definitely make friends with the Assistant Special Teams Coach since he has the ear of the coordinator. Gotta play the game, boys.
- Nobody cares. Work harder. One of my favorite sayings. Such a try-hard saying. But seriously, when you lay your head on your pillow at night understand that no one is taking on your same stress that you are. No one cares about your vision like you do. No one feels what you feel. Figure out how to internalize, pick yourself up, and consistently bring the BDE (big dick energy). "Adapt. Improvise. Overcome."
- Enjoy the moment. Be serious as fuck but also don't take yourself so seriously. Confusing, I know. While I mean all of those things above, you also need to enjoy yourself and enjoy these moments. Embrace the suck. Understand that you're still in the 1% of people who are playing a kid's game and chasing the dream you've always wanted. Take a moment and appreciate the situation you're in because it all comes and goes at some point. For everyone. Enjoy the camaraderie with the boys, enjoy the moments, and have fucking fun getting the best out of yourself.
I'm rooting for you boys and I can't wait to see which wolves come out on the other side. Take advantage of these opportunities and find your unique edge that allows you to stand out. Cheers to a damn good camp.
Be a fucking wolf,