HBO’s Hard Knocks is billed as a true insight in the world of NFL training camps, and Tuesday night’s episode couldn’t have been more realistic in regards to the pressure NFL hopefuls face each practice.
I finally got around to watching the last episode this afternoon, and the one thing that truly stood out to me was Mike Vrabel’s “motivational speech” to rookie linebacker Lynden Trail. About 18 minutes into this week’s finale, we learned that Trail had a quad tendon strain that left him “very iffy” — and eventually out — of the Texans’ final preseason game. After hearing from the trainers about Trail’s physical health, we then see linebacker coach Mike Vrabel tell Lynden how he needs to do everything in his power to get back out there Thursday and help us “win a game.”
Of course any knowledgeable fan, and any player competing for a roster spot, knows that Vrabel couldn’t care less about if the Texans win a meaningless game where the goal of the entire coaching staff is pretty much to get out of town with no injuries. What Vrabel is really saying is that if Trail wants to have any chance of making the Texans’ roster, he’s got to play that week.
Of course the unfortunate reality is that Trail couldn’t play, and if he had tried, he would have risked more significant injury or likely been ineffective. But that’s the realities of a borderline candidate for a roster spot. Sit out and give yourself a chance to be healthy soon, but being healthy doesn’t mean much if you’re not on a roster. Of course, if you play there’s the risk of making things worse, both on and off the field. That’s the decision many players have to make,
Trail ultimately was cut after missing the game, and there’s no guarantee he would have made the Texans’ roster even if he had gone out and had a terrific preseason finale. But for now we’ll never know, and it’s possible that by not finding a way to get on the field, he’ll never get another real shot at an NFL roster. It’s easy for a player or team to give someone time to rest when they’re a star player or high draft pick, but as Hard Knocks perfectly captured this week, that’s not the case for someone who is just perceived as a borderline player.