There are many indicators fans use to signal the start of a new football season.

Some look to the NFL Draft as the official start. For fans of the college game, it can be spring practice or even National Signing Day, which dates back even earlier.

Many view the first official on-the-field practice for fall as the start. The pros get started before the collegiate players do in this area.

One sign that most could agree on, however, is the first NFL preseason game. This week the Atlanta Falcons will be in the annual Hall of Fame contest.

The game itself won’t mean much. Starters and front-line players will play very little, if any. We’ll end up seeing a ton of players who will not make the final roster.

However, it is still an official preseason game. It is not technically considered a scrimmage, although in some ways it is. Very little opponent game planning goes into it. Coaches hope not to have any significant injuries. No doubt coaches also use it as a way to get rookies on the field and maybe find a diamond in the rough when it comes to a final roster spot or two.

For me I usually watch the first quarter or so of the Hall of Fame game. It’s just good to have football back and you can enjoy watching a live game.

After the first quarter, however, the interest drops. It might even be a chance to listen to the Atlanta Falcons broadcast team of Wes Durham and Dave Archer. The duo has teamed up for several seasons now and has become one of the best at their craft.

Durham brought a collegiate enthusiasm to the NFL after working as the Georgia Tech radio announcer for several seasons. He now announces college football games on Saturday in addition to his work for the Falcons.

Archer, a former Falcon quarterback from the 1980s, is as solid of an analyst as there is. He played the game at the highest level and understands it in a way many do not. Archer can also be heard on Saturdays broadcasting regional ACC football games on television.

It’s not just the pros that are on the verge of the 2019 season. Local high school programs have been working throughout the winter, spring and summer to return to the field.

College football seems to be the No. 1 passion for fans in this area of the country. Our state has numerous college programs that go beyond the University of Georgia in Athens and Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Georgia State and Georgia Southern also play at the top level of college football. Kennesaw State has been a playoff team at the FCS level in recent seasons. Valdosta State won the Division II football national championship in 2018.

West Georgia, LaGrange, Shorter, GMC and Reinhardt also have football programs. West Georgia also made the Division II playoffs in 2018. Our state has so much high school talent there is no problem filling rosters recruiting mostly in Georgia as these programs do.

So after months of anticipation, the new season is here. There’s probably even one or two of you who, like me, have caught a CFL game this summer.

The Canadian Football League kicks off in June so maybe that is what we need to consider the official start.

And even after the college national title game and Super Bowl for this season, there will still be football to watch as the XFL makes a return.

Atlanta doesn’t have an XFL franchise but coaches with ties to professional football in the city will be involved.

Former Atlanta head coach June Jones is the coach of the Houston XFL franchise with former Falcon quarterback Chris Miller as his offensive coordinator. Jerry Glanville, head coach of Atlanta from 1990-1993, is the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay XFL team.

So sit back and get ready for several months of football action.

While we may not have games 52 weeks of the year we are getting pretty close.

What a great country we live in. Once again, the wait is over.

Winder resident Chris Bridges is former sports editor of the Barrow News-Journal. He is a multi-time winner for sports column writing from the Georgia Press Association, National Newspaper Association and the Georgia Sports Writers Association. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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