The first game of the NFL's 2009 regular season is still 21 weeks away (our apologies for that painful reminder). Even the first training camp opening is more than three months hence. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't have a single mandatory practice for veterans until just after the first official day of summer.
And yet, even as the NBA and NHL enter their playoffs and MLB gets into swing, the National Football League remains as prominent as ever in the American sports consciousness.
That is all thanks to the Draft, the annual offseason touchstone for rabid NFL fans wanting a taste of the game. Just like no other sport in the country approaches the NFL's in-season popularity, no other draft draws as much top-to-bottom analysis as that held by professional football.
And now that event is just a week away. The mock drafts are changing as fast as you can blink and the networks are ramping up their coverage by the day.
The outside scrutiny is matched inside the walls of the 32 NFL club headquarters. Teams of scouts have been preparing for the weekend of April 25-26 for virtually an entire year, traveling to every corner of the country to attend practices, games, all-star games, workouts, interview sessions, the NFL Combine and pro days. All the information gathered by that field work has led to countless hours of meetings and draft-board shaping. At One Buccaneer Place, for instance, the team's player personnel staff spends the entire day, every day, in draft meetings at this time of the year.
By next Saturday the NFL Draft will be at center stage, and we bet you'll be watching.
We also know you'll be eagerly awaiting news on the newest Buccaneers. The NFL Network and countless other media sources will bring you valuable coverage of the draft, but you'll find the most Buccaneer-centric information right here on Buccaneers.com. That's because the Buccaneers.com Draft Central section is now open for business.
Visitors will find Draft Central most useful on the actual weekend of the draft, with our wall-to-wall coverage of every pick and our swift updates on the Bucs' selections, though it will also be of value in the days leading up to the draft. Here's what you'll find in our 2009 Buccaneers Draft Central: