A major theme in the NFL for as long as I can remember is that not everything is as it seems at first glance in preparation for the season. A particular story from my playing days comes to mind.
I had always worn No. 8; it was a number that had some sentimental value to me, and it's the number my brother also wore. You could definitely say that I was attached to that number.
Well, heading into my second season with the Washington Redskins, Joe Gibbs was coming back to the team as the head coach. Any time there's a head-coaching change, you know there are going to be some personnel changes too, but I was pretty sure I was on good terms with the new staff for what they wanted to do in 2004.
The team ended up signing Mark Brunell, and I understood the decision -- Brunell had played a long time, he'd been a good player and had been ousted from his starting job in Jacksonville in kind of a weird way. No one needed to call me to explain things. I got it.
Fast-forward to the news conference, and all of a sudden, there's Brunell holding up a No. 8 Redskins jersey. My No. 8! Maybe the new coaching staff didn't feel all that great about me, after all.
In the end, we had a conversation and worked things out, and Mark actually became a good friend of mine. But I'll never forget the feeling I had when I saw that someone else had taken my number (and my spot).
What I'm seeing
Looking back to the preseason, there was a certain class of quarterback that we put into the pile of high-level fantasy QBs -- guys such as Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, etc. Meanwhile, there was another group that was more of a middle class, guys who would be good second starters in two-QB leagues, or bye-week fill-ins.
That second group included Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Andrew Luck. Despite his performance last season, there was a lot of apprehension about Luck this season. Instead, he has pretty much taken over a spot in that top-flight group; while he hasn't taken anyone's jersey number, he definitely has bumped a lot of players down the fantasy rankings.
This season, Luck has really had only one bad outing, and that was the San Diego game where everyone on Indy's roster had a bad game. Even without Reggie Wayne, Luck has found a way to perform well. From what he has shown on tape, he's just that good.