First of NFL training camps open

"Huddle up!" That's the call more than 2,500 players will begin hearing in the next few weeks as the long journey to Super Bowl XXXVIII begins with a simple training-camp command.

NFL teams start back to work this Friday as the Super Bowl XXXVII champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFC North champion Green Bay Packers become the first teams to open their training camp doors. Summer vacation is over. Let the hitting begin!

"It goes so fast," says Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp of the team's Super Bowl enjoyment. "Now we're back to even."

Everyone is 0-0 as camps produce their annual surge of optimism at all 32 club sites.

On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and New York Jets complete the initial quintet of camp openings. The Bucs and Jets play in the American Bowl in Tokyo, Japan on August 2, followed by the Chiefs against the Packers in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Monday night, August 4.

Those games are the first two of 11 preseason contests that will be nationally televised. Fans can watch the building of NFL rosters, and increasingly, they can witness that preparation closer to home. A "mini-trend" in the NFL has a growing number of teams moving their training camps to or near their permanent home bases.

"We are determined to bring the 49ers to our fans," says San Francisco general manager Terry Donahue.

The ‘Niners are one of five teams this year that have switched their camps to their home bases, joining the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins.

The NFL training camp longevity king? The Green Bay Packers will return on July 18 for their 45th consecutive summer at St. Norbert College in DePere, Wisconsin.

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