Preseason? Preseason!

It’s that time of year again, folks!

Prepare your bodies for the inevitable rush of feeling that comes along with every football season, as its once-gentle trickle back into our spheres of consciousness has been relegated to a modest flood of NFL overload, weeks before the season even formally begins.

What with the juggernaut that is Fantasy Football still somehow permeating our culture to its very marrow and hype for the cable medium’s last blue-ribbon show-pig at an all-time point of invasiveness, it’s no surprise that a preseason football game in the first few breaths of August – August – drew 8.2 million viewers.

Holy shit.

An exhibition that barely featured starters proved to the league, to television monoliths, and most importantly advertisers, that it doesn’t matter what you put on – the people have spoken.  Most casual-to-earnest NFL fans haven’t watched a game since the Super Bowl, and for many other more diehard followers there hasn’t been a quenching of their gridiron thirst since late April, and even then it was the Draft.

Now, mercifully, the gods have shone down on us, the insatiable beer-swilling masses, providing us with a new season of NFL football.  Insert the church and hand-raise emojis here.

There’s something remarkably unsettling about football in August, much less preseason football, where the winner is the team who walks away with the most remaining knee ligaments and fewest sustained concussions.  It’s a lovely way to see these young players that pepper the underbelly of our favorite teams getting some quality reps, but it’s also mind-numbingly dull to see the lower scales of talent play themselves out in games of little to no consequence.

The coldest August day central Illinois has had in many years blew in last week, and for just a fleeting moment I got a tingle of things to come:  Sweaters-and-shorts weather, colorful fall leaves blowing in the Autumn winds, chilled slightly with the earnest cold still yet to come, and pumpkin-spiced everything accompanying Halloween decorations in grocery stores.

It was a beautiful day.

Sure, it’s resumed being warm again, and there is something nice about the first three months of the NFL season being played out in nicer weather, but these August preseason games creep up on me faster and faster every year.

It certainly doesn’t help that the Bears are walking a thin line when it comes to the depth chart in several areas as they approach their preseason debut this Thursday against the Denver Broncos.

G/C Eric Kush was just lost for the season with a torn hamstring, which isn’t a huge blow, but he provided quietly acceptable depth in the wasteland that was the 2016 Bears year.

Kyle Long’s ankle and shoulder are going to be questionable all season, and even though he’s one of the toughest guys in the NFL, the unusual transition he’s making to left guard will hopefully showcase his ability to not only excel at yet another position, but how he can work out of the left side of center.

Speaking of center, Cody Whitehair is going to see reps at guard in the preseason to fill in for Long, giving Hroniss Grasu (who survived this year’s Bears Family Fest thankfully) a chance to work with the first team offense at his natural position.

Grasu has been something of a forgotten piece since his sophomore campaign was derailed almost exactly a year ago.  With Whitehair’s excellence at center in 2016, many wonder aptly what Grasu’s role is.  Going into last year there were multiple reports of Grasu radiating leadership and preparation for the burden of being the team’s starting center.  With Whitehair proving his prowess and pedigree, one could wonder what 2017 has in store for Hroniss.  Time (and health) will tell.

Speaking of health, our old friend Pernell McPhee came into training camp looking to be in better shape and finally physically ready to be the defensive leader and active force of destruction that Ryan Pace envisioned when he signed him to a lucrative 5-year deal back in 2015.

As you likely know by now, McPhee is likely not going to play any of the preseason and will miss all of training camp, courtesy of yet another knee complication that required arthroscopic surgery.  In two years, McPhee’s knees have frustrated a fan base dying to embrace him, not to mention a coaching staff that is desperate for his tenacity to be out there every snap, and with every recurring  setback, the spotlight is shifting away from 92 and moving onto 94.

Leonard Floyd is up in weight, has worked on his tackling form to stave off head injury, and by all accounts is proving to be a terror practicing against offenses in Bourbonnais.  He’s attributed all these changes to familiarity and dedication.

I’ve been practicing faster than last year just because I know the defense a little more. I know what I can do and can’t do within a call. [I’m] just being more mature and more calm in situations. As a rookie, I played kind of jittery at times and missed a few sacks. I’m going to make sure this year I don’t miss any. I’m putting in a lot of extra work. Last year I didn’t really put in as much extra work as I’m putting in now. That’s probably the biggest difference. – Leonard Floyd

…and that’s before we get into the questionable health of Danny Trevathan, vindication of Kyle Fuller, and downfall of Adrian Amos.  Many, many fruitful storylines are ripe for the upcoming year, but I don’t want to put too much into one basket today.

Obviously the major highlight of Thursday and likely the entire preseason will be the performance of recently-signed Mitch Trubisky, making his NFL debut as the third string quarterback.  Numerous highlights of his big arm, athleticism, and ball placement have dazzled peaked onlookers, while others are quick to point out Mike Glennon’s dismal arm strength and wonky deep ball placement not exactly compensating for the glowing sound bites regarding his leadership.

Fact is that Mitch is behind Butt-Fumble Mark Sanchez on the depth chart for now, and even with clips like these making the rounds, Glennon’s going to get the nod.

So here we go, folks.  The first days of the 2017 Bears season are here, and relish these opportunities to see Tarik Cohen, Adam Shaheen, Eddie Jackson, and a large handful of optimistic lower-tier talents battle it out in these preseason scrums.

Just be careful with your knees, guys.  I can’t deal with last year all over again.

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