This is the arguably the most difficult week in the NFL for many players who will either change uniforms or no longer be a player in the league a week from now. Many fans consider the fourth preseason game as barely worth watching, as evidenced by the small crowd at The Ralph in the last preseason game.
However, I believe this is one of the most interesting weeks in the NFL season. The fourth preseason game is where one can evaluate depth at various positions. Players “on the bubble” are also out there putting their best effort forward with the hope that they won’t be getting that call to come to the coaches office and bring their playbook with them (or now their iPad).
It is with this mindset that I would like to recognize that the life long work, hopes, and dreams for many hundreds of players across the league are about to come true, be dashed temporarily until they are picked up by another team, or worst of all represent the end of their dream to play in the NFL. It is the best and the worst of times, filled with anxiety, excitement, and in some cases despair and frustration.
Never been fond of the term “camp fodder”, as it seems to marginalize what is an incredible journey for so many gifted athletes, regardless of how long they get to “wear the shield”. These young men all dream of having that shot at financial security, life long recognition and celebrity. Some become seriously injured in the preseason and experience life long disability as their only reminder of what could have been.
This year is slightly unique for players trying to make the Buffalo Bills squad. With a new coach, new GM, and a push to change the culture of losing, some players who were drafted under previous coaching regimes may not fit the changing scheme on both offense, defense, and special teams. They have reason to be concerned. Friday night will be “Sleepless in Buffalo” for a couple dozen players.
Sudden injuries that occur during a preseason game can change the numbers game in a hurry. A player who may feel they only had an outside shot at making the team can suddenly be thrust into a position where it all changes on one play.
Though Jeff Tuel probably felt confident of his chances to secure a QB3 position, it is doubtful that he seriously considered that he would be held out of the last preseason game because he could be starting next weekend against the Patriots*. This is a bright young man who has shown a lot of promise in the preseason, but even he must feel amazed at his fortuitous opportunity.
So to all the young Buffalo Bills who will be staring at your smartphones on Saturday afternoon, this Bills fan would like to take a moment to thank all of you for your dedication and effort to try and make the team. Buffalo Bills fans know and appreciate an “underdog” more than many fan bases. We are pulling for each and every one of you, and for those who do not make the team, your time and your effort will not be forgotten.