This is the time of year when football fans really begin getting that non-medically induced itch. The sun is shining, the grass is green and football is almost back!
...well, not really.
In truth, we're still weeks away from a meaningful NFL game being played but fans (myself included) are still desperate to learn something -- anything -- that could be construed as insight into how a team is functioning. But the reality of the situation is that there isn't much news this time of year, as very little has happened. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster hilariously highlighted the absurdity of training camp media by conducting what will likely be considered a legendary Q& A session with reporters:
By my estimation, it seems that Foster wants to be the best teammate he can be. In reality, outside of "I'm retiring," or "this team really blows," there's really not much that coaches or players can say during this time of year that will truly be of much value. So the result is a slew of common refrains that we have now all heard so frequently that they've completely lost meaning. So in honor of just trying to be the best teammate that you can be, here are a few of the most generic quotes that you can expect to hear during NFL training camps.
"Excited to compete."
Perfect by Tim Tebow, the idea of being 'excited' is a favorite among players who are new to teams (generally rookies). 'Excited' is more or less the only acceptable emotion one is allowed to feel about competing for a new team. Nobody is ever lukewarm when it comes to competing. It just doesn't work like that.
What they might actually think but won't say: "If I had a choice, I probably wouldn't be competing for my spot at all. I came here ideally to start and it kind of sucks to have to be pitted against teammates in order to earn that right. I wish I would just be named the starter now so I don't get injured during a pre-season game while overexerting myself in order to impress coaches."
"Buying into the system."
In the NFL, particularly among more unstable franchises, there is a constant revolving door of coaches on a year-to-year basis. Training camp allows the media to get their first glimpse of the new management in action, and in order to cultivate a sense of optimism (or more likely, for lack of anything better to say) players and coaches will invariably tell the media that everybody is buying into the system. The "system" could involve getting on all fours and howling at the opposing team before throwing your cleats at them, but for the sake of avoiding scrutiny, everyone at this juncture of the season will claim they're buying into it. You can also file 'the team is gelling' under this category.
What they might actually think but won't say: "There's a lot of new s**t to learn. Hopefully it works."
"Our goal is to win the Super Bowl."
With rare exception, athletes by nature are extremely competitive. So prior to the start of every season, you will likely hear players from every NFL franchise express that their goal is to win the Super Bowl. This type of sentiment is comforting to fans and couldn't be any more generic or meaningless.
What they might actually think but won't say: "I'm in a contract year, so I hope I really light it up statistically, even if most of those numbers come in garbage time. This franchise will have no issues cutting me if I fail to perform or get injured, so why should my end-game be ensuring that our owner gets to hoist a trophy in February. Winning a Super Bowl would be nice -- certainly a tremendous accomplishment -- but if given a choice between the two, I'll take a new contract with $32 million guaranteed and a signing bonus. You would too."
"I'm in the best shape of my life."
This is a popular choice among players either coming off of a lackluster season or otherwise surrounded by controversy in some capacity. This sentiment probably doesn't mean much, but it is generally enough to get Fantasy Football nerds in a tizzy. The player probably did work hard during the off-season but the odds are that this person has been in pretty good shape since they were in high school.
What they might actually think but won't say: "I play in the NFL, I'm always absolutely ripped. Seriously, look at me. Ridiculously in shape."
"Getting better every day."
Examples: Marques Colston: 'I’m enjoying my days and my practices here, just trying to get better', Carlos Rogers: 'Taking every day one day at a time and getting better', Brian Hoyer: Trying to get better every day and be the best quarterback I can be for this team
This phrase actually translates directly into "I have nothing to say."
What they might actually think but won't say: "We had practice today. I'm tired. What more do you want from me?"
"It's a back and forth competition"
Examples: Shanahan: 'I think it's been back and forth', Drew Brees: It’s back and forth, but all that matters is who’s on top in two weeks, "Blidi Wreh-Wilson will likely get the opportunity tomorrow, as the two go back and forth in the competition"
During the pre-season, much of the focus is often on teams with heated battles for starting positions. The press will often try their best to determine who is in the lead to play said position, despite the fact that the team has only been practicing for a few days. So, the most diplomatic way to avoid anointing a starter is for coaches and players to declare that there is a back-and-forth competition.
What they might actually think but won't say: "We haven't even played a pre-season game yet, why are you talking to me?"