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The Long Months Ahead (Without Football)

By Alex Norman

The Super Bowl is over, and millions of football fans are asking the same question…

What am I going to do with my life?

Well, you could always spend more time with your family, start a new hobby, and perhaps begin taking those yoga classes you always wanted.

Who am I kidding!  You are going to gobble up every scrap of football you can find over the next eight months until actual games begin again.

But have no fear, because I’m here to help.  Cut out the article (or bookmark this webpage), and consult it when going through withdrawal.

National Signing Day (February 6)

Depending on when you read this article, National Signing Day may already be over, but lucky for you, the analysis of how everyone did will last for weeks.  You know that Alabama will have a terrific class. You know that Ohio State will have a terrific class. But what were the surprises? Did Butch Jones finish strong for Tennessee?  Is your favorite team doomed? Not one game is won or lost on National Signing Day, but the players a team gets (or doesn’t get) make the difference for a program.

Spring Practice (March-May)

This is the time when injured players heal, and the up and comers try to open their coach’s eyes.  Of course, players that perform well in their team’s spring scrimmage don’t necessarily become sensations in the fall.  If you want to see a game in person, this is your last opportunity for months.  On the high school level, CAK and Fulton hit the spring as defending state champions.

NFL Draft (April 25-27)

Much like National Signing Day, no NFL team wins or loses a game that weekend, but the players selected or not selected make the difference between also ran and playoffs.  What if the Indianapolis Colts had passed on Peyton Manning and took Ryan Leaf instead in 1998?  Think the Oakland Raiders wished they passed on JaMarcus Russell?  Tom Brady was a sixth round draft pick for crying out loud. For Tennessee fans, there is the added interest to see where wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers end up.  Quarterback Tyler Bray has the talent to have a long career in the pros, but does he have the mentally and work ethic to do so?  And which team takes the chance?

Organized Team Activities and Mini-Camps (April, May)

For NFL fans, these practices are rare reprieves from surfing the internet, looking for any rumor about how their team is handling the off season.  Some teams allow fans to watch.   But to be honest, if you show up at one of these things, you have a serious problem.   Nothing interesting is happening.

Fantasy Football preparations (All summer long)

For those who enjoy a good fantasy football season (and what red blooded American doesn’t), the summer is the time for you to begin making cheat sheets and try to find the diamond in the rough.  Randall Cobb available in Round 9?  Thanks!  Fantasy football has either made us better football fans or worse football fans. I’d not sure which.  All I know is that I was rooting for Robert Griffin III to score many points against my real life football team because he was the starting quarterback for my fantasy football team.  Yes, I also have issues.  But admit it… a smile comes to your face when those first fantasy football magazines hit the newsstand.

Opening of Training Camp (late July, early August)

Let’s just touch on the college game.  College coaches are among the most paranoid people on earth.  Former Vols coach Derek Dooley didn’t want former players showing up at practice unannounced.  Imagine what he would have done if practices were open to the public?  So don’t hold your breath on Butch Jones breaking open the gates and letting in all comers.  But wouldn’t it be nice to have one practice in which fans could watch?  They’d see first-hand how boring practice actually is… No one is out there diagramming the greatest trick play the world has ever seen.  It’s a lot of stretching and instructing.  Like chemistry class… with toe touching.

August 31… the Vols host Austin Peay… and it can’t get here fast enough.

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