There is nothing like the first day of an NFL training camp, when the air is filled with footballs and optimism.

There has not yet been a costly interception or fumble. Nobody has missed a tackle to lose a game or been nicknamed "Drum" for being beaten like one.

The start of training camp is all about hopes, dreams and fantasies. There are only a handful of teams with anywhere near a legitimate chance of winning the Super Bowl, yet there is a part of every player thinking maybe, just maybe, this could be the year.

The fuel for such thoughts comes from knowing that in two of the past four Super Bowls, the winning team had a losing record the previous season. And that the other two teams finished 8-8 and 9-7 the year before winning it all.

A team can be 4-12 one year, Super Bowl champs the next. That's how it was for the St. Louis Rams, 4-12 in 1998, champions in '99. The New England Patriots were 5-11 in 2000, won it all in 2001.

It could be like that again this year for a team that had a losing record in 2002.


The question is, which team?

Wide receiver Randy Moss also is excited about the season, but he's not ready to guarantee a Super Bowl victory just yet.

"A key component was adding to the defense. That can push us toward the Super Bowl," Moss said. "I'm not standing here saying we'll go to the Super Bowl. The first thing is go to the playoffs and then go toward the Super Bowl. We've seen drastic things done to approach getting to the Super Bowl. If we don't do it this year…"

; Well, then, there's always next season and the start of another training camp, when the air once again will be filled with footballs and optimism.

Bob Sansevere

St. Paul Pioneer Press

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