“When you’re a player, you’re like ‘hey, slow down, rest a little more’ but now I’m just totally excited, ready to get it started and you can feel it in the air, everybody’s ready for some football.”
Former NFL star Jason Bell is certainly ready for it.
Co-host of BBC’s The NFL Show and two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora is also hungry for more.
The 2019 NFL season is locked, loaded and ready to roll out with four months of blistering drama ahead, and the duo spoke to RadioTimes.com about what fans can expect from the coming months.
Ex-New York Giants veteran Umenyiora said: “There’s really no sport like it, man.
“I don’t think there’s another sport on planet Earth where there’s something for everybody whether you’re big, tall, skinny, fat, whatever it is, there’s a position for you out there.
“It brings everybody together, people from all cultures, races, religions, everything, all under one roof competing at the highest level. The strategy that goes into the game, once you understand it, it really is an incredible sport.”
The popular duo – alongside presenter Mark Chapman – form the face of the BBC’s NFL coverage in the UK bringing weekly highlights, top-draw analysis and more genuine laughs than British sports fans are used to from their sporting icons on the small screen.
Fans have waited seven months since the Super Bowl for NFL to return, and the boys are raring to go once again, for more than just the action on the field.
“It’s the only time Osi will pick up my phone calls!” joked Bell.
The camaraderie between the trio makes for great entertainment on screen, and Umenyiora is quick to testify to their bond.
He said: “Mark is our guy, we love him, we missed him quite a bit actually so to get back together with him and spend some time because we’re actually friends.
“I think a lot of people just work together but we are friends so to reconnect with him is really cool.”
But away from the fun and games of the studio, there’s a game to be played – 16 games per team over 17 gruelling weeks, to be more precise, and teams are making final preparations ahead of kick-off this weekend.
But who will impress in 2019?
“I like what Philadelphia’s done, brining back DeSean Jackson. I think they’re gonna be really good and their quarterback is gonna return to form. I like what the Eagles have done,” said Umenyiora.
“This is going to be quite controversial, but I also like what the Houston Texans did, I like that trade with Jadaveon Clowney, I like them bringing in Laremy Tunsil – that was probably their biggest weakness – but going forward I think they’re gonna be a really good football team.
“Everybody’s talking about the Cleveland Browns so I don’t think it’ll be much of a surprise if they have a pretty good season.
They’ve got so many weapons offensively, defensively they have Olivier Vernon, a very underrated football player who they’ve paired together with Myles Garrett coming off that edge, so I really think Cleveland will make a strong push.
“The NFC for me is just wide open, there’s just so many good football teams in there, I just don’t know who’s going to come out there, we won’t know until toward the end of the season.”
Bell agreed with his co-host’s assessment of the league and threw more teams into the mix: “Kansas City Chiefs have got better even though they’re already elite. They got better on defence and they have some of the best offensive weaponry out there.
“I also think that the New Orleans Saints are still a great team and I’m going to go with my dark horses, the Minnesota Vikings.
“Everybody is really excited to see Kyler Murray the first pick and that Arizona Cardinals offense, but I think they’ve got a lot of holes on defence, so I think they’re going to struggle a lot more than people are going to think just because they’ve got such a talented young quarterback.”
It’s not been a promising off-season for every side.
With less than two weeks to go until the start of the season, the Indianapolis Colts were rocked by the retirement of superstar quarterback Andrew Luck due to constant injury battles.
Luck – winner of the 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year – was set to front the side many expected to be an outside bet for the Super Bowl in 2019, but his retirement won’t be the end of the Colts’ chances, according to Umenyiora.
“I think they’re going to be just fine. Jacoby Brissett is a very underrated football player.
“They kept him there for a reason because they like him, they gave him that extension because they like him, he’s just a very talented guy who the New England Patriots really, really liked, even though they traded him to the Indianapolis Colts.
“At the quarterback position they’re set, they have a really good receiver, good running back, spectacular offensive line.
“This team is an underrated football team, they’re not going to collapse because Andrew Luck retired.”
Bell added: “They possibly have the defensive MVP this year in Darius Leonard at linebacker. This team is loaded.”
Also dominating the NFL headlines in recent weeks has been Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot.
He led the league last season with a stunning 1,434 rushing yards but only just returned to the Cowboys’ side after refusing to train until his contract demands had been met.
Holdouts are commonplace in the NFL, and Umenyiora “100 per cent” backed Elliot’s decision.
He said: “As a player this is exactly what you have to do because the NFL, believe it or not, I know everybody looks at it as a sport, is a business.
“They sign you to contracts and they do not live up to those contracts.
“They cut you, they release you whenever they feel like it so if you’ve over-performed or out-performed your contract you have absolutely no other recourse but to withhold your services in order to get the money you deserve.
“It absolutely worked out for him because he got that and more.”
‘Zeke’ is tipped for another huge year with the Cowboys, but the NFL revolves around its stellar quarterbacks.
Umenyiora’s way-too-early Super Bowl pick is the New England Patriots, while Bell has plumped for the Kansas City Chiefs, with both men waxing lyrical about each team’s respective QB.
“I’m looking to see what Tom Brady does at 53 years old!” joked Umenyiora.
“What this man has been able to do is incredible. Is he going to be able to do it one more time? Is he going to be able to perform up to that high standard again? That’s what I’m really look forward to.”
Bell joined in the praise for Brady: “Man, what’s he’s eating? He always said that he is going to sacrifice more than the next person and that’s the reason why he can sustain and play at this level for this long.
“He has truly sacrificed his body and his time to be ready to go and play, so kudos to him.
“And Patrick Mahomes, man. We’ve already seen greatness – who knows what could happen this year? The Kansas City Chiefs team is better [than last season], he is better, he has one of the best play-callers in NFL history Andy Reid.
“This guy Mahomes, I’m excited to see what he can do. He is what the league needs and it’s going to be amazing to watch him.”
Umenyiora and Bell are understandably raring to go for the new season, given the enthusiasm before a ball has even been slung, but what should fans expect from the pair over the coming weeks?
Bell rounded things off nicely: “Entertainment. We love the game and that comes across on the television.
“We’re all very knowledgable, but we know it’s fun, we have fun doing it and we want to convey that message to the audience.
“Osi reminds me all the time, as a player you wanted to simplify things – things could get very convoluted and difficult, so you try to break it down and make it easy to digest.
“We do the same thing for our fanbase because as players that helps us and I think the same thing helps the fans.
“I’m excited, I’m ready to go, Osi is too, let’s go!”
How to watch NFL on BBC
The NFL Show
Chapman, Umenyiora and Bell preview the upcoming round of NFL games.
Time: Every Saturday night
Channel: BBC1/BBC iPlayer
NFL This Week
The guys bring highlights of the weekend games along with expert analysis on all the big moments.
Time: Every Tuesday night
Channel: BBC2/BBC iPlayer