A fans eye view - Part II

I headed into town early - about 8:15 a.m. for the 9:30 practice. I found great parking on the residential streets of High Street (the main drag) and wandered over to the Student Union, where I expected the players to be coming from. Only a few fans are there and they tell me everyone's left already. But sometimes a bit of patience pays and I wait.

It may be that the players have left for the field, but there's a
golf cart waiting and the Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier comes on out. We
few fans plead with him to stop over and, to my surprise, he does. The
guy has a lot on his plate, so stopping is a real kindness. I get a
couple nice photos and he autographs my 'Training Camp 2002' sheet that
I created for this purpose.

Once he's gone, I head over to Biddle Field. It's already getting
hot and humid. There are yellow ropes setting the boundaries behind
which the fans must stay, but you're allowed to get pretty close to the
fields. I'm early...one of the first fans out. There's a player
jogging on the field toward me. He's wearing pads, but has no jersey so
I can't see a number to tell who he is. Once he's closer, there's no
doubt - it's Darrell Green. Dang...here I came to see starters and all
I've seen so far is a Ball Coach and a 40 year old nickel back (grin).

After a while Justin Skaggs comes out and does laps as well. He and
Darrell are the first guys out.

Next come the punters. Dan Franz, who was in camp last year is
hitting a few. Most are travelling less than 40 yards, so I'm hoping
he's kicking for placement and not for distance. I just don't think the
guy has enough leg.

Once the rest of the players are out, they divide for drills.
Defensive backs, linebackers and D-linemen, offensive linemen and the
offensive skill guys are in separate areas. Keep this in mind, as I'm
moving around trying to soak up a bit about each group. I'm sure
there's much I missed and other folks' reports will have many details I
didn't catch.

There's yet another distinct group - Bruce Smith and Santana Dotson.
They are only in pads and they're running sprints...sort of. They make
a show of running what the old timers called 'gassers', but I wouldn't
say they're knocking themselves out.

After a bit, everyone's called to the main field for 11 on 11 drills.
At first they're working on running plays. Obviously the D has an
advantage knowing there'll be no passing. Robert Gillespie carries for
about 3 yards - I thought that was good, given that the D knows he's
coming. Kenny Watson picks up 4 yards - looked pretty good (remember
that Kenny had a great training camp last year). But then Stephen
Davis shows why he's the NFC rushing leader - he gets 8 yards.

The D is not pleased and doesn't like being shown up. On the next
play there's a fake to Davis and he nonchalants it. Donovan Arp rocks
him with a hit and Davis comes up grabbing for Arp. The two have to be
separated.

Ladell Betts made his debut - a carry for one yard. He runs way too
upright and is stripped of the ball to boot. Welcome to the NFL, rook.

The best play of the drill was a reverse with Stephen Davis handing
off to Champ, who took off for about 30 yards. I can't wait to see that
one against the Giants.

The Passing Drills. Oh my. Understand that there's not much for
the QB to fear. There's no sacking or tackling of the QB. In fact,
there's not much of a rush allowed. You'd think it would make it
easy. To be honest (and blunt) we looked wretched. Danny Wuerffel
has a weak arm and it showed. Shane completed a few, but most were
adventures. Sage Rosenfels had by far the best practice, but don't
construe that as an endorsement. Nobody behind center impressed.
There were several nice catches by McCants and one stellar one by
Gardner.

Wednesday Afternoon. Practice began at 4:30. Oh Lord, was it
hot. There are crowds in the stands though. I was able to get close to
the offensive line drills. It's sort of a kick to see millionaire
linemen like Jansen and Samuels holding blocking sleds for the rooks. A
lot of these drills are of the sort you see at your local high
school...nothing dramatic until you consider who these guys are. I will
say that when Jon Jansen whacks a sled, you hear it.

The team went back for passing drills. I suspect the coaches weren't
happy with the morning practice and repeated a lot. Again, there's no
sacking or tackling. I felt Bryan Johnson looked good on a few
receptions. Derrius Thompson had one good catch. Jacquez Green hauls
in a few. Although I was pulling for Skaggs (a lot of people like
him), Wuerffel's passes are bouncing off the turf and he hasn't got a
chance to shine.

BTW, on one play they had Stephen Davis split wide as a receiver.
Look for that during the season. I have a feeling we're gonna be
sneaky...there were a number of trick plays.

The afternoon drill was more spirited than the morning's effort and
there may be some rivalry developing between the offense and defense.
The defense backs were laughing it up at the offense's expense and there
was some taunting. With the vets, it's fun. I'll bet it's not so much
fun for the kids desparately trying to make the roster.

The media was out in force. The Post reporters were there, of
course. Mark Mosely was doing interviews (I did go up and introduce
myself and thanked him for a lot of good memories). James Brown of Fox
- the guy who works with Terry Bradshaw - was there and I got a nice
photo of him interviewing Chris Samuels.

I'd sort of hoped to run into some folks from CPND. I had taped my
cyber-name and CPND and ExtremeSkins on my visor. A fellow who's
posted on a number of boards and lists under the name of Haybailey
introduced himself and I enjoyed talking with him several times.
Another guy from Chicago introduced himself and said he's read stuff on
the board but never posted - he said he'd read my columns in the past
and I was flattered. It's probably just as well I didn't ask if he'd
enjoyed them.

God, I love training camp.

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