That’s probably the last time the walkway down to the practice fields will be this empty for a while.
Training camp opens today, thankfully putting an end to the completely rumor-driven portion of the offseason and beginning the part where there’s an actual on-field component of the talk.
That change hadn’t happened yet for the first group of fans who arrived today, seven guys “mostly from McLean.” When I asked what they were going to be paying special attention to once practice started, the conversation turned to the competition for the second wide receiver spot.
“Devin Thomas,” said one.
“Malcolm Kelly,” said another, immediately, and the whole thing degenerated into a lively debate.
“He doesn’t work as hard as Devin Thomas!”
“He’s bigger, man!”
“He’s better, he’s just hurt all the time.”
“He’s more poetic…”
“He can rhyme.”
And so on.
It makes sense that these guys hadn’t moved to the next stage of the offseason yet, because they got here well before fans were allowed to begin parking. “They were here when I got here,” the guard at the gate told me.
This is the group’s seventh straight year doing this (although they did not camp out on the street this year like they told Dan Steinberg they would), so they’ve got their plan pretty much down cold: while they waited for the gates to open, the group decamped to the median of Loudoun County Parkway where they set up a small kettle grill and started in on your traditional breakfast tailgate of hot dogs, hamburgers, and raisin toast.
“It’s actually raisin grill,” the guy working the grill said. “If you toast bread, it’s toast. This is grill.”
Fair enough. I asked if they had any suggestions for fans who were planning to attend but hadn’t bothered to arrive before sunrise. They did, but not the actual practical kind I had been sort of hoping for.
“Get in line behind our cars,” one suggested.
“Watch us, bring a notebook, bring a pen, maybe a camcorder,” said another.
Fair enough, and everyone can feel free to do that (except for the camcorders, which are actually prohibited). More practically, though:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear sunscreen.
- If you’re waiting for autographs, be patient. The players will sign after practice on their way back to the facility, and — if past experience is any indication — they’ll be pretty generous with their time.
- Drive carefully — there are usually a lot of fans here, and some of them inevitably wind up walking in the road. (Also, pay attention to the speed limits; just because it looks like a wide spread of brand-new asphalt doesn’t mean it’s an actual highway. That’s just how a lot of the roads look in Loudoun County.)
- As the signs around camp note, illegal and dangerous things — drugs, weapons, firearms, alcohol, glass bottles — are also prohibited here.
- No dogs except certified guide dogs assisting guests with disabilities.
Practice starts at 8:30. The event is free, as is parking. I’ll be posting updates after practices, but I’ll also be using Twitter from the fields, so follow along there. Roll on the 2009 preseason, and not a minute too soon.
Tags: Fans, Training Camp, TrainingCamp
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