NFL training camp never changes. No matter the team or the year, you can set your watch by the events, stories and controversies. So forget the day-by-day and minute-by-minute camp reports coming from Flowery Branch, Cortland or Metairie. Just clip and save this one-size-fits-all camp schedule, and you can stay abreast of all that’s happening as your favorite team prepares for the upcoming season!
Day 1: Players report to camp. The obligatory local news footage shows the players parking their Escalades and marching one by one to the dormitories lugging a month’s worth of provisions. It’s like “The Things They Carried,” but with less inspiration and heroism and more video game consoles.
The superstar holdout seeking a contract extension does not report. Unnamed sources claim that he and the team are “miles apart” on negotiations.
Day 2: Play the Opening Press Conference drinking game. Throw back a shot whenever someone says, “It’s great to be back,” or, “Our goal is to win the Super Bowl.” Drink two shots for, “Every team is undefeated right now,” and three for any variation on, “Take it one day at a time.” We are not responsible if you end up stark naked on a railway trestle before noon.
Day 3: The pre-camp conditioning test isn’t what it was in the days before Albert Haynesworth. Instead of running a series of sprints, players must now climb a flight of stairs in time to answer a telephone before the fifth ring and say “hello” without hyperventilating. Four veteran linemen still fail.
Unnamed sources claim that superstar holdout and the team are “light years apart” on negotiations. Head coach’s quote: “We are concentrating on the guys who are here.”
Day 4: Replacing playbooks with iPads has its drawbacks, as a rookie safety who downloaded “Angry Birds Space” races off the field and crashes into an equipment shed crudely built out of wood and glass.
Day 5: First dustup of camp, as a veteran backup tackle exchanges shoves with an undrafted rookie linebacker on a 97-degree afternoon. The coach’s post-practice comments reveal that he secretly thinks of his players as toddlers. “I like seeing them act a little feisty,” he says. “Boys will be boys. They need to get the wiggles out. They’ll sleep good tonight.”
Day 6: Undrafted rookie cornerback from tiny college intercepts a pass during seven-on-seven drill, begins trending on Twitter.
Unnamed sources claim that Superstar holdout and the team are “parsecs apart” on contract negotiations. Starting quarterback’s quote: “We are concentrating on the guys who are here.”
Day 7: Breaking News: A veteran star has been carted off the practice field. He’s not seriously hurt; the cart driver just gives excellent investment advice.
Day 8: Because of the new collective bargaining agreement, brutal two-a-day practices have been replaced by one 90-minute practice followed by an Emily Dickinson poetry reading at the 50-yard line. Three players pull hamstrings during “I Heard a Fly Buzz — when I Died.”
Undrafted rookie cornerback intercepts two more passes during seven-on-seven drills. His story appears on the front of the sports page, just above the back-to-back no-hitters.
Day 9: Slow news day. That’s right, folks. The past week was considered a series of “fast news days.”
Unnamed sources hire an astronomer to describe the vast interstellar distances between superstar holdout and the team. Astronomer explains that because the universe is expanding, the two sides are growing ever further apart. Fiery defensive leader’s quote: “We are concentrating on the players who are here.”
Day 10: So many injured players are riding stationary bicycles during practice that the sideline is reclassified as a Peloton, which explains why that French television crew accidentally crashed a Vespa into a goal post.
Day 11: The annual mid-day thunderstorm. In the past, players and fans alike had to scramble for cover when the skies opened up. Nowadays, teams use satellites and lightning detectors to monitor storms more than an hour away. All except your favorite team, which still predicts the weather using Aunt Ethel’s bunions. Fans trapped on metal bleachers take solace in the knowledge that the storm will probably ruin some agent’s convertible.
Undrafted rookie cornerback intercepts a pass just before the storm. Local radio host spends four hours comparing him to Ronnie Lott, ignoring news of the three-way Jeter-Votto-Verlander trade announcement.
Day 12: If the rookie kicker makes a 45-yard field goal, veterans can skip the last half hour of practice. If he misses, he will spend the next 10 years substitute teaching and hoping that a veteran kicker gets injured every Sunday, instead of earning millions of dollars and living a glamorous lifestyle. The head coach actually thinks he needs the skipped-practice gimmick to add “pressure.” The rookie breathes a sigh of relief when a distant thunderclap ends practice just before the snap. He will be cut anyway.
Day 13: Travel day for preseason opener. Chris Mortensen reports that superstar holdout’s agent has demanded that the new contract include “flooffable years.” No one knows what “flooffable years” are, but the national discussion turns to whether superstar holdout has accomplished enough to deserve them.
Day 14: Preseason opener. The starting quarterback completes one of three passes for four yards on the opening drive while using the helmet headset to speak with his broker. The fourth-stringer leads a 12-play fourth quarter drive against 11 defenders who answered a text message telling them to show up at the stadium at 10 p.m. and be ready to run. The talk radio agenda for the next week is officially set, so there is no need to listen.
Undrafted rookie cornerback is mentioned 43 times during the telecast, records one tackle.
Day 15: If the first-team offense played poorly, today is spent panicking and demanding massive changes. If the first-team offense played well, today is spent criticizing the head coach for exposing the starters to injury and showing too much of the playbook. If the first-team offense played somewhere in between, today is spent complaining about how boring and meaningless preseason games are.
Day 16: Back to camp. There’s an exciting battle for the fourth receiver spot, as the fifth-round pick had four catches in the preseason game, but the veteran is better on special teams… and my God we have to select the leader of the free world in less than 10 weeks and you are seriously focusing on this?
Day 17: Not much happens at your team’s camp, but a major starting quarterback elsewhere feels tightness in his shoulder. The Hattiesburg Airport closes as a matter of homeland security.
Day 18: Undrafted rookie cornerback breaks up three passes during seven-on-seven drills. Twitter explodes. Coach rewards him with a promotion to the third-team defense.
Unnamed sources claim that superstar holdout is willing to hold out until the earth is a desiccated wasteland orbiting a dying sun. Running back’s quote: “We are concentrating on the guys who are … oh the hell with it. Please come back buddy! We miss you. We are lost without you. I … [drops to knees] I love you.” Sports talk personalities somehow find nothing noteworthy about this.
Day 19: Second preseason game is only broadcast on local television. The game is produced by the team’s in-house Homer Television Network. The announcers are the weekend weather guy and a retired punter. The storylines for the broadcast: “Buy season tickets!” and “That rookie cornerback is incredible!” and “Everything is going to be just fine, we swear!”
Day 20: In 24 hours, the team can increase superstar holdout’s daily fine for holding out.
Day 21, 11:59 p.m.: Superstar holdout signs an extension: six years, $44 million, with only $753 guaranteed and the last three years flooffable by the team, but not the player.
Day 22: Fan Appreciation Day marks the end of formal training camp and the start of weekly practices at the team’s training facility. The team truly appreciates the fact that you turned three weeks of stretching and sled-blocking drills into a massive promotional opportunity and revenue stream, so here’s a bumper sticker and a chance to get the long snapper’s autograph.
Day 23: First round of cuts. Undrafted rookie cornerback is released and never mentioned again.