Well, this is it. After eight exhibition games and 72 regular season games, the three-week playoff round begins on Sunday and ends with the Grey Cup on November 25.
A football season definitely has different blocks of time with a different purpose to each. When training camp began back in June, you were trying to build your team by picking all the right players to be on your team. Depending on how your coach wants to run training camp, it can be the longest three weeks of the season as you're either trying to take someone's job or protect your own. Everyday is pretty much the same in every way and has a competitive intensity to it that I have never experienced in any other aspect of life. Football training camp is not fun. It is tough, intimidating and filled with tension and stress.
The next block of time is regular season football: Games 1-18 over 19 weeks. In the beginning, football is fun. The optimism of trying to have a great season both as an individual player and team is felt throughout. Then as Game 1 turns into Game 3 and that into Game 6, what was fun has become a grind. I always thought the toughest month was August because the playoffs look so far in the future, and the best month was October because the playoffs are so close. If you started all 18 games and played in all the plays, congratulations; that is a major accomplishment of toughness and durability.
Even though the regular season is over in a little over four months, it seems like it goes on forever. I have never known a player that was not happy to be moving on to what every player desires; playoff football. And in this block of time lasting three weeks, whether you are the sixth-best team or the best, an opportunity to win it all is right there for the taking.
What most remember about playoff football is the seriousness of it through the week. Players do care about winning and I always remember that in clear detail. The meetings were very quiet, very focused and the practices were back like training camp with everyone fighting for a job . And I remember the cab ride to the stadium, and being in the locker room and how everyone was so ready to go mentally, physically and emotionally.
There really is nothing like playoff football because you realize that this is it. After all that work over each block of time, it now comes down to three weeks and the results either make the season a good one or a difficult one. Of all the weeks of football, these are the best ones.