They call it training camp, but I tend to think of it more as "teaching camp." The coaches are forever teaching and the players seem to be forever in learning mode.
In my mind, training camp is two-a-days every day and no one has to ask if it's full pads. In my mind, training camp is players dragging themselves up the hill to the locker room at the end of practice and trying to find enough energy to make it to the cafeteria before they trudge back to the dorm room and collapse in their bed. In my mind, training camp is grass drills and gassers; it's perpetual motion meant to harden bodies for the start of the season.
Those days are gone forever and, in my mind, so is training camp.
It's called progress. Things change. The game has changed and the coaches have adapted. They have to train their players differently for today's game. Most of all, they have to make sure they are fit for the start of the season or the owner is going to look unfavorably upon the coach every time the owner has to sign a six-figure paycheck for a guy who didn't make it out of camp.
Making sense of the balance between a physical camp and a don't-get-hurt camp is the difficult part. The Jaguars have conducted only one full-contact-to-the-ground drill in this camp, the Oklahoma, and there were no injuries. Meanwhile, third-round draft choice D'Anthony Smith sustained an Achilles tear while running around a blocking bag.
How do you figure?
The answer is that Smith's Achilles was probably just waiting to pop, but better it pop in a non-contact drill than in a live goal-line session because the coach would've been "killed" by the media had it happened in the goal-line drill. The media would've called him primitive and out of touch with the modern game. Either way, however, the Achilles is still torn.
What's the answer? I don't know, but I have a few thoughts. First of all, out of respect for what it used to mean, let's drop the name "training camp." It conjures up memories of desperate men doing desperate things. I remember having covered a player who kept his dormitory door slightly open and the room dark as he perched himself in such a way that he could see who was at the door without being seen. He was watching for the "Turk," because if it was the "Turk" knockin', the guy wasn't answerin'.
The Jaguars had a kid in their camp a year ago, a safety from Louisiana-Lafayette, who reminded me of the old days. He asked me if he had been cut. I told him not this time. I thought he was gonna faint. It was good to see.
Commissioner Roger Goodell campaigned for a move from four preseason games to two, during Goodell's press conference in Jacksonville this past Monday. It was plain to see Goodell is passionate about reducing the preseason and expanding the regular season. He talked about it adding value to the NFL's product.
Based on what I've seen, it appears the NFL is already preparing for that day. Training camp and the preseason are going to blend into a one-month warm up for the start of the regular season.
It's probably for the best.