The Opinionated Spectator…Training camp’s hidden gems

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Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of football coming back to us. Its not games yet. But it’s training camp and I’ll take it!

Training camp is the time of the year when teams get to reinvent themselves. Players get to prove themselves and fans breathe a sigh of relief. Football season is back. The game that is more flawed than most care to acknowledge is back.

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Alexis Cobb

At its core, football is dangerous sport. Veterans try to stay healthy and protect themselves from losing their starting spots.

The new draftees are trying to learn the teams’ system and prove that the team was correct with drafting.

The practice squad players are trying to show that they are good enough to be added to the active roster.

And then there is the undrafted free agent.  When it comes to the draft they may have slipped through the cracks but they fight, claw, and dream about making the team.

The undrafted free agent has the least amount of status. He is brought into training camp as a camp body.  In other words, he is a person that the team uses so that they don’t wear down and hurt their starters or their veteran players.

However, the undrafted free agent, whether he went to a smaller school, ran into legal trouble in school, or he simply didn’t play, as much at a big school, has the same desire when it comes to the football game.

They just want to play football at an NFL level.

These free agents try not to squander their opportunities and understand how rare it can be for a player with their football experience to play professionally.

However, there are thousands of undrafted free agents.  They train, they eat special diets, and then, they wait. They wait for a team to give them an opportunity.  It’s a difficult process and for most, there is no happy ending.

Yes, in America we are told if you work really hard, then you can accomplish your dream. But the same cannot be said for the undrafted free agent. They work hard. They train everyday. They work their day jobs to create a sustainable lifestyle and yet they wait.  They wait on front office personnel to subjectively decide to give them an opportunity. But that too is rare for front office personnel to give them their opportunity.

I have never understood why NFL front office personnel insist upon saying no to so many undrafted free agents.  They say no to watching their film, to giving them the opportunity to try out for the team, no to signing them into a rookie camp or training camp. Many times these NFL personnel continuously say no and for the undrafted free agent, it can be a devastating, painstaking, and unfair process.

It’s one thing to be at camp and fail to make the team; it’s another thing altogether to never get the opportunity to tryout for the team.   And for the undrafted free agents, some never get the experience.

But let’s look at the Seattle Seahawks last year. In a league where so many teams don’t want to give undrafted free agents or street free agents an opportunity, they embraced men who were undrafted and had a checkered past. And I don’t know about you, but I’m still impressed by the thorough beat down they put on Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos. It was masterful.

So, in this 2014 training camp I’m rooting for the undrafted free agents and street free agents. I hope that other teams will give these men opportunities to show their skills. So what if they have checkered past, I personally think it adds character.

Alexis Sara Cobb may be reached at:  alexiscobb@ascexec.com or (724) 561-8082  Follow her on Twitter: @alexissara

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