Rookies, Vets Look At Preseason Differently

This article was originally published in Bernie's Insiders magazine on 8/6/2002. In this article, Reggie takes a look at the relative importance (or non-importance) of pre-season games.

Preseason games mean different things to different people.

From a rookie's standpoint, everything is so new to you that the main thing you want to do is avoid making mental and physical mistakes.

After only a week or two of practice, you really are very limited as to what you know in terms of the playbook. As a receiver, you want to show you can run precise patterns and not drop any passes thrown your way.

That's especially true for the late-round draft picks and free agents, who likely will only have a couple of preseason games to show what they can do.

Even if the ball is not thrown your way, the coaches will evaluate you on every play, picking apart the game films to make sure the things they've taught you during the two-a-days have been carried into the games.

Coaches look to see how much you picked up and how well you can apply it in a situation wherein you're playing in front of thousands of people and a television audience. In reality, the most important "audience" for the young players is the dozen coaches who dissect the game film the next day.

The early-round draft picks might get a bit more involved in the action.

Preseason games for them are a great time to show the coaching staff they deserved their lofty draft status and that they should be given every opportunity to compete for a starting job.

Preseason games for veterans are a way to get their timing down during the quarter or two they play. You work on a few things you need to improve upon personally, plus try to develop some type of cohesiveness with the 10 guys around you.

On a veteran-laden club, that likely won't be a problem. But if you are on a young team that is still building, you might find yourself surrounded by several new faces. This is particularly important for offensive linemen because cohesion is such a huge part of their game.

Other veterans just try to stay focused during the time they're in the game, and get out injury-free.

Most veterans don't enjoy playing in the first one or two preseason games, mainly due to the risk of injury.

That's a big reason why they will rarely play beyond two quarters during those games. By the third or fourth preseason game, they build up to three quarters so that come the regular season, they are ready to go a full game.

Fans, in my opinion, put far too much importance upon winning and losing during the preseason. You've got to remember nearly half of the players, especially during the first couple of games, will be sitting in the stands or watching the games from their couch at home once the regular season gets underway.

Sure, it's nice to win, but in order of importance, that is probably not even in the top three or four things in terms of what coaches and players look for as they go into the preseason games.

Cohesion, running precise routes, staying injury free, getting into game shape and trying to find a player who coaches call "a diamond in the rough" are all far more important than which team wins the game.

When you watch a preseason game, you should only watch the first drive or two. That's normally when your No. 1 offense will be going against the No. 1 defense, and vice-versa.

But even that can be misleading because generally you only run "vanilla" offenses and defenses. You won't see any trick plays. You won't see much blitzing. You won't see anything being run that opponents can put on film and prepare for once the regular season arrives.

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