As fans we expect the players on our favorite teams to give no less than 100%, one hundred percent of the time. After all, these athletes make in a short career what generations of families won’t make in many lifetimes to play a child’s game – right?
C’mon, you know you’ve at least thought exactly that at some point in your career as a fan when a player didn’t run out a ground ball or they didn’t attend a voluntary practice.
Where’s the commitment?
Where’s the determination?
Drop a pass that is hardly contended and the knee-jerk response is, “Even I could have caught that!”
Many would argue that because you pay handsomely for your ticket to the game and spend $8 for a nasty beer or even while watching at home paying an inflated cable bill for the privilege to do so, that you’ve earned your right to criticize.
But are such criticisms always fair?
Consider your own livelihood. Maybe you are an engineer working on deadline and the marketing and production departments are ratcheting up the pressure because they are feeling the heat from the company’s newest customer to deliver on time.
The job is challenging enough without the added brow beating…
Now add to the pressure cooker mix some unexpected stress on the home front. Just this morning your wife who is a west coast native and suddenly hates living in Baltimore and is now threatening to move with or without you back home and she has vowed to take your toddler with her to boot.
That deadline just became a bit more challenging, didn’t it?
The point here is that players, despite their gaudy salaries and lifestyles of excess are people too and they experience the trials and tribulations of humanity just like we do. A bad day at work can be affected by things away from the game.
These players are not robotic.
Now this isn’t intended to make excuses for all of the lackluster efforts from players just as a wild night on the town on a Thursday doesn’t excuse your poor performance at the office on Friday. But the fact is just like for you and me, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Recently many Ravens were criticized for not attending the voluntary mini-camps. Making matters worse in the minds of many fans is the fact that the Steelers voluntary camps had high attendance marks as did John Harbaugh’s brother Jim’s 49ers.
Did the Ravens go soft?
Do they not care as much?
Are they overconfident after knocking on the door of last season’s Super Bowl?
How about this – does it really matter? Is there really a direct correlation between success in the NFL and running around in t-shirts and shorts at quarter speeds on a Tuesday in early June?
Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Haloti Ngata, Vonta Leach, Matt Birk and others didn’t post this past week to the new Under Armour Performance Center. Is anyone really worried about their commitment? Worried that any will report out of shape or that any won’t be familiar with the playbook and their respective assignments?
Queue up the crickets…
A bigger concern would be that these players suffer some sort of freak injury that might put a full season in jeopardy. Now that would make a 2 hour casual practice in shorts seem expensively unnecessary.
Ok, I get it that a player like Jah Reid should be there, familiarizing himself with the left guard position and refining his technique. But maybe he’s nursing an injury that John Harbaugh is concealing. After all we know the Ravens’ skipper deals with such topics the way the CIA might handle secrets concerning national security.
But what if it’s much simpler than that?
Maybe the players just want to be with their families a bit longer and get away from the game knowing that when training camp starts the season is an intense 6+ month grind that demands commitment of heart, body and mind.
Maybe it’s as simple as the players needing to spend more time in Florida, Texas or Nevada to establish their residency in order to secure the favorable tax status (no State tax) provided by those States. Do the math, it’s probably worth skipping a voluntary camp.
When it’s all said and done, mini-camps serve two purposes – baby sitting and installation.
The baby sitting? Yep, the club gets to keep an eye on their “assets.”
Installation? The primary goal of mini-camp is to familiarize players with systems – playbooks and practice in order to improve training camp efficiencies.
If a team’s core consists of veterans who need help in either of these areas, well then they probably have the wrong veterans and a bad core.
And that ladies and gentlemen is not your Baltimore Ravens.
Let’s let the big boys be big boys and not criticize their choice to skip a casual game of two-hand touch in June.
Save your critical eye for September.