It is now only 5 weeks before the start of the 2014 NFL season and all 32 teams have begun their preparations as they all seek to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy in February. Training Camp is well and truly underway, but with it brings a whole host of questions. There are numerous positional battles to be sorted out, especially in Cleveland. There are also contract issues that need to be resolved, injuries to overcome and of course, this is the year that will see the first openly gay player in the NFL.
1: The name on everybody’s lips, for good and bad reasons, is Johnny Manziel. The former Texas A&M quarterback had a good final year of college but was selected with the 22nd overall pick by the Cleveland Browns, as opposed to the top 10 pick which some people had predicted. He then celebrated by embarking on several boozy encounters to Las Vegas and New York, moves which caused concern for some members of the Browns. The reason why he is the hottest name in football right now is not only his playboy lifestyle. With new Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine saying that Manziel won’t be starting the year at number 1, all eyes have turned to Brian Hoyer, a man who is coming off a serious knee ligament injury. Can Manziel force his way into the starting jersey, or will his eccentric lifestyle get the better of him.
2: There have been several contract holdouts already in this year’s training camps. Both Vernon Davis and Jamaal Charles have been handed new contracts, the latter becoming one of the top paid running backs in the NFL. But now it is the turn of Marshawn Lynch, aka Beast Mode, the Seattle Seahawks star running back hasn’t yet featured at training camp as he looks for a bigger contract. Despite being among the top 6 best paid RBs in the league, Lynch wants more. However, the Seahawks can now start imposing fines upon him for missing camp which currently stands at a huge $405,000. With that fine set to increase further, this is a situation which may rumble on for some time.
3: While they were never going to be Super Bowl champions, no-one predicted how badly the Houston Texans would do in the 2013 season. Just 2 wins all year with some of football’s biggest names on the roster was a travesty for the franchise. There have been some big changes at the organisation, namely a new head coach and a new, powerful pass rusher to compliment JJ Watt. On paper, the combination of Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt seems to be the best rushing duo in the league but can it live up to the likes of the Seahawks and the Panthers? And Will Clowney’s recovery from surgery hamper his progress in his rookie year?
4: Prior to the 2014 draft, Michael Sam openly came out as being gay. Since then, he was drafted as the 249th pick by the St Louis Rams and is working towards his rookie campaign in the NFL. However, since the draft it’s been revealed that some unnamed teams didn’t draft Sam because they thought he would be a distraction, a view shared by former league coach Tony Dungy who said he wouldn’t have drafted Sam ‘because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.’ The fact that people are talking about it shows that it could be a distraction, but the same can be said for those players that have been arrested and suspended this off season. One thing is for sure, Sam will use his on field play to quiet those who question him off the field.
5: After a superb rookie year in the NFL, some were already touting Robert Griffin III as a potential Hall of Famer. The former Heisman trophy winner led the Washington Redskins to the playoffs as a new era of dual threat quarterback entered the league. Sadly, a serious knee injury put paid to his hopes for a repeat in 2013 as he just couldn’t find full fitness and was actually dropped for the final 3 games of a hugely disappointing year. He hadn’t scored a single rushing touchdown all year, after scoring 7 previously, and his passer rating dropped from 102.4 to 82.2. His number of interceptions more than doubled. This year though, there is renewed hope. It has been confirmed that he will play without his knee brace and the man himself says that he is back to full fitness. A fully fit RG3 is a dangerous one and, with a new favourite weapon in DeSean Jackson, Redskins fans will hope that their lynchpin can lead them back to glory in 2014.