Training camp is in some ways an exercise in frustration, at least for a person like me. There are various things happening all over the field(s)—far too much to watch. So do I focus on one thing and maybe miss something awesome elsewhere, or do my eyes dart around, and maybe I miss everything?
And then there’s the frustration of still being a relative neophyte in football knowledge. I never played football, I never watched football, and as far as I was concerned football was only an annoyance I had to take into account when scheduling events, concerts, and rehearsals. I’ve been busy making up for lost time the past three years, but in the same way I suspect the majority of you couldn’t come into one of my rehearsals and tell me what the altos just did wrong, or why the tenors and sopranos aren’t sounding good together, I still have difficulty looking at a blown-up play and being able to say who missed their assignment. So what you are getting here is a smorgasbord. Some things were easier to see and/or more interesting to watch. Some I only watched a few reps before something else caught my eye. Some of my notes are partially illegible, and some of the paper is crumpled because the people behind me seemed to think training camp is an awesome opportunity to walk back and forth to the concession stand, approximately once every two minutes, and there isn’t a lot of extra space for walking on those bleachers. And then there’s Steely McBeam. Don’t get me started. At least he didn’t take my pen away and autograph my notepad like he did last year...
So with all that said, here goes, "locked and loaded" as Pixburgh Arn would say:
I got to my seat about 20 minutes before practice was set to start, and a number of the youngsters, UDFAs and suchlike were out on the field. (The big-name vets make an entrance just before practice begins.) I got my first of many looks at Chris Rainey. He was easy to spot, despite his diminutive size, being the only one in thigh pads and jersey pants instead of shorts. He was hanging out with QB Jerrod Johnson (6’5") and WR Toney Clemons (6’2") which made his size appear even more diminutive. I wonder if it isn’t sort of like those very thin women who insist on pointing out how little they are eating. After a while he appeared to be practicing jump shots—basketball jump shots, that is, with an air basketball. Very random.
The O linemen came in as a group, before the stars showed up, even Pounce and Colon. Still no change in the first-team O-line—it’s Gilbert—Foster—Pouncey—Colon—Essex. Kelvin Beachum was playing 2nd team LG, next to Mike Adams. With his helmet off and his shoulder pads on Beachum looks like he has the world’s tiniest head. He’s also very big and strong, so I want to point out I didn’t mean the statement in a negative sense. At all! Kyle Jolly was playing 2nd team RT, Legursky at center, and DeCastro at RG.
They brought out a mattress for the tackling dummy drills for the special teamers. When I went to Ladies’ Training Camp last summer they didn’t have a mattress there. Just sayin’. Then again, we were paying them, not vice versa.
Finally, the horn sounded and the long-awaited carioca drills began. Once they began stretching I noticed Keisel had his own trainer to stretch out his left knee, which is still in a bunch of strapping. The Beard is coming along well. And speaking of beards, Rainey has grown a long pointy one. If he were to ask Momma’s advice, she would tell him for his own good—lose the beard...
I noticed Isaac Redman and Baron Batch hanging out together during the drills and stretches, and was struck at how similar their body types are. Batch looks like a slightly smaller version of "Red," as Haley calls him. And speaking of Haley, I noticed him hanging out with the QB corp before the practice really got rolling, and they all looked very comfortable and friendly.
Pouncey and Trai Essex were standing together, and Pouncey looks svelte! Essex has definitely slimmed down, but he looks really big compared to Pouncey.
They started running a few QB/WR drills, and speaking of running, Jerrod Johnson can really roll out. He reminds me a bit of a bigger, sturdier version of Dennis Dixon. I don’t know if he likes shoes or not. But as I look up Dixon it isn’t surprising Jerrod struck me this way: Dixon is listed as 6’3", 195; Johnson is listed as 6’5, 251 pounds.
Heath Miller is back, and participated in the sled blocking drill. Saunders got a nod from Tomlin on one of his attempts.
Some WR drills started, and there was a #81 I couldn’t find on the roster. I wonder if he is the newly signed guy, Paul Cox.
Marquis Maze is really quick. And he caught everything thrown at him today, including an underthrown ball he picked up about an inch from the turf and. Near the end of practice he had a tumbling catch of a Jerrod Johnson pass which was way in front of him. He actually looked a bit shaken up afterwards, but walked off under his own steam, kneading his ribs.
They ran the WR drills for quite a while. Cotchery had a nice leaping catch; Saunders looks good. Toney Clemons seems to have gotten over his case of dropsy, at least for today, and made, among others, a nice off-balance catch. Antonio Brown seems determined to demonstrate he deserved his new contract, and caught a long bomb from Ben after changing directions a couple of times to shake the DB. (Couldn’t see who it was he beat.) Towards the end of the afternoon, though, he just missed an overthrown ball which was probably placed at about the point Wallace would have been.
Then things got exciting. They put on the pads and had drills where a DB had to shed a blocker and go for the ball carrier. CB Terry Carter got beat like a rug. Myron Rolle shed his blocker and tackled the ball carrier. Robert Golden had a great go, and Keenan Lewis looked very good. Then a big fight broke out. One of the DBs was not doing well; (I thought his shirt said #21 but there isn’t a #21 - maybe Andre Freeman, #41?) and Lake made him do it a couple of times. Derrick Williams, #15, beat him, and he got mad and apparently grabbed his facemask. Next thing you know there was a big scrum, with several of the other DBs and receivers joining in. Even Antonio Brown ran over, although I like to think he was just there as a peacemaker : ) At any rate, the coaches broke it up, they repeated the drill, and started fighting again. The fans in the bleacher were pretty excited. At the end of the drill Carnell Lake made everybody kiss and make up. (Well, slap each other’s helmets, more or less gently, which I guess is the guy equivalent.)
After the testoterone settled a bit they ran some no-huddle scrimmages. They ran a lot out of the no-huddle. John Clay had a big run between the tackles. Rainey got pancaked. (He did have a great end-around run later one, though.) Tomlin had better watch out for his Ferrari. Isaac Redman had a big run. Blah blah blah - surely we can just all assume his awesomeness!
About this time I saw a large man jogging slowly on the back field—a Max Starks sighting.
David Gilreath, #18, dropped a long pass after Byron Leftwich had to roll out to his right. Dwyer had a nice run, as did Redman. Redman also took a screen pass for a lot of YAC, looking very shifty. Rainey absolutely toasted Myron Rolle on a catch, even though Rolle saw it coming and was right there. Rainey reminds me of Roadrunner, when he kicks into his extra gear and his legs blur into a circle shape.
They ran a bunch of punt return drills, with Drew Butler punting. He’s got a leg on him—most of the time. There were a couple which must have been close to 70 yards, though, and a lot of 60 yard punts. Antonio Brown took one punt, just to keep his hand in, I suppose, and Sanders took a couple, as did Marquis Maze and David Gilreath, but the majority of them were taken by Chris Rainey.
Then they ran a drill where the ball was snapped to the QB and the DBs were on the field, but no lines, other than the center to snap the ball. Toney Clemons caught a pass in traffic. Ike Taylor broke up a pass to Emmanuel Sanders. Brown defenitely seems to be Ben’s go-to guy. Weslye Saunders fought to pick up a Byron Leftwich pass in the middle. Curtis Brown broke up and almost intercepted a Leftwich pass. Paulson had a great catch off Jerrod Johnson.
At that point it started to spot with rain, and looked very threatening, so I put away my notepad so as not to lose my notes. There wasn’t much time left in the practice, and the staff shooed us all out shortly thereafter, as a nasty-looking thunderstorm was moving in. I made it to my car just as the heavens opened.
I tried to keep an eye out for Cortez Allen and Terrence Frederick, but the DBs were mostly two fields away, so I only saw them in the drills. I got a good look at Ziggy Hood during the warmup drills and stretches, and he looks fabulous, but they were moving players around so much during the scrimmages it was hard to keep track of who was on the lines at any one time, and I was trying to watch the DBs anyhow. They definitely seem to be leaving Allen in the nickel position, moving Brown to Lewis’s corner position when they switched to the second team. I couldn’t tell who was in Ike’s spot. They were running the scrimmages back to back with very little pause.
And that was my day at training camp.