There's a saying that I've heard, somewhere out in the internet ether, that the most popular sport in America is the NFL, and the second most popular sport is the NFL Offseason. And while I'm pretty sure I've said that before as something of a joke, it's hard to deny the incredible amount of hype even the most minor of offseason NFL moves get all across the country. We simply can't get enough of this sport, and while it may ultimately do a number on our personal relationships, physical well-being, and overall mental health, it sure is fun, dammit. And luckily for us, the NFL is structured so there isn't too much truly dead time between the Super Bowl and Opening Day; in fact, most teams are already in the process of getting themselves in position for next year. Coaches have already begun making roster moves and applying the franchise tag to their respective stars; pretty soon we'll have the Combine, then it will be time for Free Agency, and then the draft. Before we know it, it will be time for mini camp, which will be almost immediately followed by what has become my annual terrifying realization that all the weight I gained over the winter is still sitting proudly around my waistline like some kind of gelatinous wall of shame come June.
But June is still a ways away, and there is much to break down between now and then. However, the fact of the matter is that there is only so much speculating, analyzing, and predicting that we can do during the offseason, and so we need something else to feed our football addiction. I suppose there's always the option of taking a break from the NFL and experiencing life a little bit, but I think I established a long time ago that that simply isn't going to happen.
And even though it didn't end the way we were all hoping, 2012 was a pretty memorable year for the Patriots So what I thought I'd do, over the coming weeks and months, is take a look back over the 20 Most Memorable Moments of the 2012 Patriots Season. As I'm sure you can imagine, only the most scientific and analytical methods went into my compiling this list; I got myself good and hydrated one night, did a YouTube search for "2012 Patriots," and after I finished crying into my Jack Daniel's over what could have been, ended up with this list. I tried to avoid the glaringly obvious moments like "The Patriots lose to the Ravens in the AFC Championship" and focus instead on the smaller moments that helped form the overall complexion of the year as a whole. It isn't perfect, it isn't complete, and there are definitely a few moments on there you'd probably rather just forget, but it's my list and I'm sticking to it.
So here we go: The New England Patriots' 20 Most Memorable Moments of 2012.
#20. The Patriots surprise everyone, sign Jeff Demps
Coming off of a 2011 season that saw the Patriots struggle mightily returning kickoffs with Danny Woodhead as their primary return man, one of the major areas of concern heading into the 2012 preseason was how the Pats were going to improve their starting field position following a score (which, based on 2011, was likely to happen a lot). Coming into the year, it seemed as if New England hadn't really done anything to address the issue and were content to simply throw a combination of Woodhead, Devin McCourty, and Matthew Slater back there and hope for the best. When Jeff Demps first declared his intentions to enter the NFL following the London Olympics,there was some initial rumblings about the Patriots possibly signing him, but to most it seemed like a long shot: the team already had four backs on the roster, Demps was more of a situational player, and he was still a bit raw as a prospect without too much more to add besides his return skills. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the team announced the signing and fans all across New England had visions of 108 yard kick returns every single week as our new return man blew by everybody on his way to setting a new NFL record for return yards in a single season. Don't even try to deny it - you fantasized about Demps bringing one to the house at least once a game and you know it.
While an early knee injury sent Demps to IR and prevented us from seeing any real action from him last season, there are two main reasons the signing made my Top 20. The first reason is timing; the move was announced relatively early in the preseason, when emotions were already high and everyone was extremely excited to have football back again. Add to this emotion the addition of an Olympic sprinter to a team that has been struggling to find a speedy return man since they released Brandon Tate, and it provided a fantastic early season surge to really hype up the team and make us all feel better about our chances of starting drives from beyond the 20 yard line.
The second reason is potential. Even though this is a list of 2012 moments and Jeff Demps wasn't able to contribute to the team last year, I'm still really excited about what he can bring to the Patriots; he has now had a year to put on some weight, familiarize himself with the Patriots system, and ready himself to hit the ground running in 2013, both literally and figuratively. The Patriots are all about maximizing the present while building for the future, and the Demps signing exemplifies that philosophy perfectly. Here's hoping that we are all able to look back on that signing in a few months and see it as one of the smarter offseason moves of 2012.