As a former NFL player, NFL training camp is where the real work begins, especially for rookies and un-drafted athletes who want to try and make a team.
Prior to training camp, you may have been on vacation or spending time with friends and family. But the fun is over the moment you are given your training camp room key. This is where the sweat and tears start. This is where nervous butterflies give you a constant uneasy feeling in your gut.
You start training camp by meeting with other players and coaches. There is a nervous excitement in the air and it seems that all the players have some jitters. Your mind plays games against your confidence and you find yourself asking questions like, “Am I really good enough to play in the pros?” “What will I do if I don’t make the team?” “What if I can’t remember the plays we are taught?” “What happens if I get sick or injured?”
Then you get your schedule and it tells you where to go and meet. The schedule tells you that your first meeting is a team meeting with the head coach, staff, trainers, and the team owner. This is it. Training camp has officially started. It’s time to get to work and prove yourself. Psych yourself up. You are the best. You are going to do great and impress everybody. You are going to make the team and become a starter. You are a professional football player!
The schedule says that practice starts tomorrow. Morning practice is at 9:00 am to 11:30 am. Lunch is noon to 2:00 PM. At 2:30 PM to 3:00 PM we watch film. Our second practice is from 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM.
For the first three days of camp, practice is a light practice with shorts and a helmet. This is to get your legs under you. On the fourth day of camp you get to put on pads. This is when the excitement begins and the butterflies go wild. You are so anxious to hit somebody. It feels like it has been forever since you were last on the field and ready to play. This is the toughest day for you. Your body has to get accustomed to the pads that weigh 70 lbs. Your body suffers as you go through practice drills while wearing these heavy pads in 100 plus degree heat. This is when you find out if you are in shape or not. Can you survive it? Are you going to get sick? Are you going to look weak in front of the other players? Be a man! You can handle it. If others can do it you can too. It’s mind over matter. Do it!
Coaches make day four with full pads a very physical day. This is to break players in on wearing pads in heat. This is where there coaches see which players have the strength and stamina to compete in the NFL. This is also where coaches see which players take being an athlete seriously and keep their bodies in top physical condition and which players are lazy and don’t work out.
After afternoon practice players hit the showers and the cold tubs. Cold tubs are filled with ice water. They feel like hell but they help an aching swollen body recover like nothing else.
After you clean up, it’s time to have dinner from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM. But the day is not over yet. You have film to watch from 8:00 PM to 9:30 PM. Snacks are at 10.00 PM and curfew is at 11:00 PM. At 11:00 PM you better be in your room and ready for bed. If not, you face the wrath of the coaches, and the last thing you want to do is make your coaches mad. Coaches do not like problem players, especially rookies and walk-ons. There’s too much talent out there to put up with trouble makers. Get your butt to bed.
This is your life every day for the next 6 weeks. Do you think you can handle it?