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Been There, Done That
Monday, August 7, 2006

By Kevin Monroe

Players pay a heavy price to prepare

[Editor's note: This article marks the debut of former East Carolina star and NFL player Kevin Monroe as a columnist. When the Pirates meet Navy on Sept. 2, he will author the first in a season-long series of Saturday morning game day breakdowns. Drawing on his unique experiences as a player and his inside perspective on the ECU football program, Monroe will also contribute his "Been There, Done That" view on special topics from time to time.]

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Football camp in August is not only necessary, but vital to a team’s success for the upcoming season... Or is it?

It depends on your perspective.

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The response you will get if you ask a football coach to categorize in one word the importance of August drills will be an emphatic "critical," "essential" or "fundamental."

But the players see things just a bit differently. Having experienced seven football camps in my career (five with East Carolina, one each with the Carolina Panthers and NFL Europe), I came to the conclusion that players just really dread summer camp.

Football and August aren’t compatible — 90-degree heat mixed with super-thick humidity isn't a recipe for an exhilarating outdoor experience. Combine the unpleasant weather with the number of practices that have to be crammed in one month and football camp is very similar to military boot camp.

At East Carolina, we only had two weeks of summer practice before school started — versus five weeks of pre-season practice in the NFL.

In order to get enough practices in, we had three practices per day. The following is a look at what a typical summer practice day schedule was like for us at ECU:

  1. 6:30 a.m. — Wake up.

  2. 7:00 a.m. — Breakfast.

  3. 8:30 a.m. — Dressed and on the field for first practice. Session consisted of individual position drills and special teams work.

  4. 10:00 a.m. — Meetings with your position coach.

  5. 11:00 a.m. — Dressed and on the field for second practice. Session consisted of 7-on-7 passing drills and offensive line and defensive line drills.

  6. 12:45 p.m. — Lunch.

  7. 3:30 p.m. — Dressed and on the field for practice No. 3. Session consisted of full team, full pads scrimmage situations.

  8. 4:45 p.m. — After practice conditioning.

  9. 5:30 p.m. — Meetings with your position coach.

  10. 7:30 p.m. — Dinner.

The repetition of this schedule for weeks is enough to wear heavily on any athlete. I would go to sleep most nights with my entire body aching.

The amount of water weight you can lose in one day is astonishing. I lost as much as 7 pounds in a day's worth of summer practice, and I have seen teammates lose as much as 11-15 pounds in a day. It is not unusual for that type of weight loss mixed with intense heat and extreme exercise to leave some guys with heat exhaustion and full body cramping.

In the NFL, camp is not quite as intense, but it’s twice as long. Imagine being on the same two-a-day practice schedule for five weeks. Just thinking about it will put you in a state of depression.

Whenever you hear of a long-time NFL star contemplating retirement, it’s always in the off-season. During the season they are playing in games and doing what they love, but in the off-season, all they have to look forward to is summer camp. Those thoughts are enough to make retirement seem like not such a bad option.

Think about the number of “day to day” injuries you see during camp. Most of the time those are real injuries, but they are the same types of bumps and bruises that players play with all season long. In camp, however, it’s a way for players to miss a few days of practice.

Don’t get me wrong. NFL athletes are just playing a game for a living and get paid a lot of money for doing so, but their work day can be a tad tougher than my day at the office sitting behind my desk.

The next time you leave your office to go to lunch and find yourself complaining about the intense heat you experience in your car for two minutes until the air condition gets going, ponder the Pirates on the field in full pads and what they must be thinking.

Send an e-mail message to Kevin Monroe.

Dig into Kevin Monroe's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 10:32:18 AM


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