Schottenheimer knows camp has changed

San Diego Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer has seen it all in his 20 years as a coach. And AFC West rival coach Dick Vermeil has seen a tad more since partaking in his first camp 29 years ago. They know what has changed and opened up to talk about it.

NFL training camps go hand-in-hand with backyard barbeques and liberal applications of sunblock as rites of summer, signaling the coming of America's favorite sport with its twists, turns and thrills.

For head coaches Dick Vermeil of the Kansas City Chiefs and Marty Schottenheimer of the San Diego Chargers, this year marks the 29th and 20th year, respectively, since their first NFL training camps as head coaches.

What has changed in the world of training camps in the past 20 to 30 years?

"One thing that has changed is the readiness with which players report to training camp today in contrast to then," says Vermeil, who ran his first training camp as a head coach in 1976 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

He guided Philadelphia to the playoffs by his third year and to Super Bowl XV in his fifth season.

"A high percentage of players at that time showed up to training camp to get in shape to play football," says Vermeil.

"We had the minicamps, but we didn't have the OTAs (organized team activities) and structured conditioning programs of today," he continues. "The structure of the offseason program is far more sophisticated, which is the biggest difference."

Schottenheimer oversaw his initial training camp as a head coach in Cleveland in 1985. The Browns earned a division title that season and stood as a fixture among the AFC's elite throughout the 1980s.

"When I was a player (Buffalo, 1965-68; Boston, 1969-70)," recalls Schottenheimer, "we played six preseason games and we started training camp eight weeks before the regular season started. That was no fun.

"It's different since the start of the offseason programs in the last 12 to 15 years. Now so much more is done in the offseason from a coaching aspect. There is much more teaching of techniques and fundamentals that we get into before we get to training camp. It's much, much easier this way."

The players, of course, may sing a different tune without an offseason to speak of.

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