The truth of the matter is that a lot of football players don’t necessarily love every aspect of being a professional athlete, even if there is nothing more that they love than playing the game itself. There are not a few veterans who will openly talk about not caring for going through the training camp process, especially if they are somebody who already keeps themselves in shape.
But it becomes a different discussion when it shifts from talking about doing the things that you have to do, and not being able to do those things. That’s the reality NFL players are facing right now as they remain locked out of team facilities and unable to work together in an official capacity.
And for some, it’s led to a seemingly obvious yet nonetheless significant revelation. “That’s really what I figured out” through this pandemic experience, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington told Kimberley Martin of ESPN. “That I love football”.
While he was in town last week to catch passes from Ben Roethlisberger, he is back on his ranch in Texas doing whatever he can to remain active and isolated. The equipment on his farm has expanded to include more unorthodox-for-the-environment instruments, such has a Jugs machine that he has set up in a flat pasture.
“Being on the farm really helped me a lot, because there was always something that could have been done”, he said about his decision to go back to Texas after spending a brief period of time back in the Pittsburgh area, unable to go to the team facility.
“Everybody feels like we should be at the facility, doing physical stuff, getting ready to go”, he said. “Even if there’s no fans, we still have to go out there and just go 110 percent, even if it would feel weird. Fans help make the game. It’s really crazy to think about”.
I’m sure Washington is far from unique in it having it dawn on him about how much he misses going through the process of an NFL season when he has had that taken from him—or at least the on-field, face-to-face components of it.
A second-round draft pick in 2018, the Oklahoma State product is now heading into his third NFL season. Through a season of adversity that saw starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lost for the year in Week Two, he led the team in receiving yards, and was their most consistent target over the bulk of the second half of the year.