When defensive end Chris Long lined up for his first preseason contest against the Tennessee Titans on August 9, 2008 as a member of the St. Louis Rams, the veteran now heading into his 11th season admitted he wasn’t exactly prepared for the speed of the game's next level.
“I felt like I was on a highway and cars were whizzing by me,” Long said. “That’s how fast it felt for me.”
He said it can be a challenge for rookie players still in camp. It’s why more experienced players like him have offered advice in advance of the Eagles’ first preseason game Thursday at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I just told them it’s going to feel fast and it’s going to feel different and not to get discouraged because by the second preseason game it’ll be a lot slower,” Long said.
Guard Brandon Brooks, entering his seventh NFL season, also had a tough time in his first preseason game with the Houston Texans in 2012. He said he was “chewed out” by coaches after the game, but was able to learn quickly and settle in going forward.
“I went out there, I was just trying to play, I made some mistakes. I was a rookie, and I got chewed pretty well after that,” Brooks said. “But I picked it up from there. That’s definitely what I remember.”
Brooks said that there shouldn’t be a lot of pressure in a preseason game. Mishaps are inevitable, and the key is to stay calm and enjoy getting back into live games.
“For the young dudes, just go out there and play,” Brooks said. “The coaches aren’t looking for you to be perfect or anything, everyone makes mistakes. They just really want to see flashes that what they’re coaching you to do and different plays, you’re actually doing. You'll make mistakes, you’ll definitely get chewed out the next day, it is what it is, but just have fun.”
Defensive end Steven Means took the field with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his first preseason game in 2013. He has only positive memories of the game saying that it was a “memorable atmosphere” and exactly how he dreamed it would be.
“It took me a while to get through that whirlwind of emotions,” Means said. “The new game speed, how fast the game goes, and you just have to realize to calm down and play football. You’ve been doing it since a little kid, so all you’ve got to do is keep balling and having fun. That’s the most important thing, having fun. The rest will take care of itself.”
Right tackle Lane Johnson had a much more unique experience in his first preseason game. While focusing on progressing and impressing as a rookie in his first game with the Eagles in 2013, he also had to worry about something a bit more important.
“My son (Jace) was due the next day so that’s all I was thinking about,” Johnson said. “I was nervous, to be honest. I think on that first drive, (Michael) Vick threw a touchdown pass. But once that touchdown came, everything else went away.”