The way people are gushing over Josh “Ronnie Lott II” Jones makes me a bit nostalgic for the 80s. That was the decade I had my first beer, went to my first Bruce Springsteen concert, bought my first car and held my first real job. What does this have to do with a rookie safety for the Green Bay Packers? Let me explain.
I covered Eagles’ training camp in August of 1988 for a television station in Philadelphia, and while I don’t remember very much from that summer, there’s one thing I’ll never forget. I was doing a story on a local wide receiver by the name of Martin Booker, who went to Villanova and who was the talk of camp after the first week of practices.
I interviewed an assistant coach about Booker and got the generic responses I expected. He told me how hard the young man was working. He told me how athletic he was and how tough he was for his size. He told me how he’s put himself right in the mix for a roster spot. And then, as I was walking away, the coach called me back and gave me a piece of advice I’ve remembered and taken to heart for the past 29 summers.
The grizzled assistant warned me never to get too excited about a rookie until the third week of camp. He said that’s when the decision makers start separating the contenders from the pretenders. That’s when the intensity gets ratcheted up and the vets really get focused. And most importantly, that’s when the rookie will be asked by the coaches to go from making plays against backups to making plays against starters.
Sure enough, Booker – who might’ve been the nicest professional athlete I’ve ever met – stopped catching passes pretty much the very minute he began running more of his routes against Eric Allen and not Eric Everett. That was week 3, and by the end of the next week, the feel-good story of the summer was over.
Look, I totally get that Jones is a second round draft pick from the Atlantic Coast Conference and not an undrafted free agent from the Yankee Conference, but the “2 Week Rule” has served me extremely well over the years. So go ahead and get super excited about every impressive play Jones makes in the coming days. That’s what being a football fan in late July is all about. Just don’t get too excited – at least not yet.
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