Depending upon your perspective, you could regard yesterday’s practice marked the start of true football in 2020 for the NFL. It was the first time since the Super Bowl back in February that anybody put pads on in an official football capacity. The first time anybody was taken to the ground in the context of a football drill.
It’s inevitable that anticipation comes along with that, but this season will be different for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the lack of prior practice and the absence of the preseason or the opportunity to work against any opponents, even in joint practices.
That’s something head coach Mike Tomlin was conscious of in discussing the advent of padded practices with reporters yesterday. He noted his excitement to get started, and said that the hitting brought a lot of energy, regarding it as a starting point.
“I thought just from a beginning standpoint, I liked the competitive atmosphere, but also an awareness about how we need to work in this environment”, he said. “We are faced with some unique challenges in 2020 in terms of the training camp process and the evaluations and competing and the significance of it without preseason games. I just thought today was a good start in that regard”.
“We are going to have to compete and compete at an extremely high level, but also do it with the understanding that it is Steelers vs. Steelers and do everything within our power to exercise good practice etiquette and proper precaution in an effort to keep everyone involved”, he continued. “I thought it was a good start in that regard. Obviously, we have a lot of teaching and learning to do, but we are excited about doing that and thankful just to be in this process”.
There are a couple of things here that we all can understand. One is dealing with the inevitable fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts on the 2020 season, while also recognizing the league’s fortunes in even having the opportunity to make a run at having the season in the first place.
The fact that nobody will be hitting anybody in another uniform until the start of the regular season is an unusual byproduct of the circumstances. How do you get used to hitting people when you have to hold up so that you don’t hurt your own teammates? It’s a delicate balance of getting prepared while preserving your roster.