For NFL fans the offseason can feel like a big black hole. If you’re missing the drama of going for it on 4th down or an onside kick, you are not alone. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for the new season to start to feed your love of football. There are lots of ways to connect with fans, learn more about the game, and follow your team throughout the spring and summer. Here are seven ways football fans can survive the NFL offseason.
1. Follow the combines
Every year in February and March draft-eligible players have the chance to show off their skills to NFL scouts, coaches, and GMs at a variety of combine events. The main combine takes place in Indianapolis over one week in February. One day regional combines occur in other cities as well. The last combine is the Super Regional Combine that is an invitation-only event.
During the combines, athletes are measured and tested in drills such as the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, and shuttle run. It’s a great pre-draft test for potential 1st rounders to see how they do under pressure. It’s also a chance for an unknown to grab the spotlight with a stellar performance.
2. Track mock drafts
The NFL draft traditionally takes place at the end of April or the beginning of May. For weeks and months before the draft, media and fans of NFL teams produce hundreds of mock drafts that try and guess which players teams will pick in each draft round.
While mock drafts are educated guesses at best, they also reveal a team’s overall strengths and weaknesses. By looking at a variety of mock drafts you can get a better idea of what to expect from your team come draft day. You can also get some insight on what upgrades your team’s rivals are hoping to make, or holes they need to fill.
3. Pay attention to free agents
The NFL’s free agency period starts in mid-March. This is also the official first day of the new season. Most teams will have a number of high profile players who are too expensive for their current team’s salary cap. This is the time to track which of your current players will switch teams (or retire) and even more fun, which new free agents your team will acquire.
As free agency gets moving look for the mock drafts to change on daily basis. While it’s tempting to just focus on your own team during free agency, make sure to pay attention to where all of the free agents end up. Many times talented players end up on a division rivals’ roster which can make for an entertaining reunion later on in the season.
4. Become a member of a fan blog
All NFL teams have thousands of fans just like you who who are craving any tidbit of information they can find about their team. While major sports media outlets like ESPN or your local paper will have updates on NFL teams from time to time, fan blogs are laser focused on their teams 12 months a year. They are a great resource for information and provide an easy way to connect with other fans.
SB Nation and FanSided have blogs for every NFL team run by fans just like you. Many of these sites have an active community of members who regularly discuss the articles in the comments section. Some sites also have member forums and opportunities for fans to post their own articles.
5. Make your Twitter following list all about your team
Twitter has a non-stop stream of NFL related content throughout the year. When you’re reading articles on national or local media sites look for twitter accounts to follow. A lot of breaking NFL news can be found on twitter before anywhere else on the internet.
Teams and many players also have twitter accounts that can be a great source of information about player transactions and community and charity events going on throughout the offseason. While you’re on twitter, search for popular hashtags for your team and you’re sure to find lots of twitter accounts from other fans as well.
6. Embrace your team’s rookies
When it’s finally time for training camp to begin in the summer, the NFL regular season roster of 53 is increased to 90 players. While many of these players never have much of a chance of making the team, there is always the chance for someone to come out of nowhere and steal a roster spot from a veteran.
Training camp is also your first opportunity to get a look at your team’s draft class and new acquisitions. If you live close to your team you may be able to see some parts of training camp in person with other fans. Some rookies will only get quality playtime in the four preseason games that mark the end of training camp, but many of these players will be called on for depth after 1st and 2nd string players experience injuries during the regular season.
7. Watch classic games
If you really hate the offseason and only want to watch “real games” you can always revisit the glory days of your team’s past. If you recorded any games from last season now is the time to re-watch them. You can access any game from last season by subscribing to NFL Rewind and many channels, such as NFL Network, frequently replay classic NFL games from the past.
Unfortunately none of these options provide the same adrenaline rush as watching a regular season NFL game live. However, by tracking the combine, draft, free agency, and training camp you’ll know more than ever about your team heading into the regular season.