|08-03-2008, 01:54 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Broncos rookies trying to survive demands of camp
By FRANK SCHWAB
ENGLEWOOD • A few days into training camp, Denver Broncos rookie receiver Eddie Royal had to stop and think.
After a moment of reflection, yeah, it had been only a few days.
"It seems like my college football season," Royal said.
Training camp isn't easy for any NFL player. The days can last 14 hours, and there are many physical demands and a lot of job stress.
At least the veterans have done it before. Going through the first week of training camp as a rookie takes a large physical and mental toll. And they have to carry the veterans' helmets in from each practice.
Rookie cornerback Jack Williams, after setting down the five helmets he was carrying after practice, said there isn't much time to rest or relax.
"As soon as you get back to your room, it seems like you've got five hours until you have to be right back to the facility," Williams said. "It's ‘Groundhog Day,' basically."
The rookies this year seem to be handling training camp well. In 2003, rookie defensive tackle Nick Eason went AWOL for a few days while he struggled with the demands of camp.
Royal said he spends his breaks studying the playbook. And he'll study the playbook more when he gets home late.
Spending all day worrying about football is the most taxing part of camp for most rookies.
"You can prepare physically and get in shape, but the mental aspect is really the overpowering thing of it," rookie safety Josh Barrett said. "You're not ready to be mentally prepared for the physical exertion you feel and overcome that, and the learning curve."
One of the toughest things for the rookies is dealing with coaches. Most rookies, especially highly drafted ones, are expected by teams to play right away. Coaches often turn up the heat on rookies to make sure mistakes are fixed quickly. On one play during camp, Royal shook free of the defensive back, came back toward the quarterback and made a nice catch. Receivers coach Jedd Fisch quickly complimented Royal, then told him how he made a mistake when he stopped coming back when the ball was in the air.
A player like Royal has it a bit easier than some other rookies. As a second-round pick, he's a virtual lock to make the team. Undrafted rookie offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus, who played at the University of Colorado, has been working with the second team for much of camp but he is far from being guaranteed a job.
"There's a lot more pressure," Polumbus said. "You have to make the team. You could get cut any day and if you're not performing of course you feel that pressure. But you don't think about that, you go out and do your job."
Veteran running back Michael Pittman said he went through the same things this year's rookie class is going through, so he tries to offer advice.
"I have been trying to keep them motivated because sometimes the confidence falls," Pittman said. "Being a veteran and being around for so long, I just try and pick them up."
Many rookies overcame the jitters, fatigue and stress to have a good first week. Offensive tackle Ryan Clady, Royal, running back Ryan Torain and Barrett were among those who stood out.
However, there was a relief from the rookies at the end of practice Saturday morning, because the next practice was not until Monday morning.
"I've never been so happy," Barrett said. "It's like Christmas, kind of."
"Sleep, get a lot of sleep," Royal said about his plans during the short break. "I'm going to have the playbook in the bed, so I don't have to go anywhere."