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Seahawks teammates still find time to bond amidst evolution of NFL training camps

Posted Aug 2, 2014

Former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman recalls his NFL training camp experience, talking with former defensive tackle Craig Terrill, wide receiver Doug Baldwin and linebacker Heath Farwell about the NFL’s evolving camp culture.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Seahawks coaches, staff, or personnel.

A trip to Seattle Seahawks training camp is bizarre for someone like me. When I played in the 80’s and 90’s training camp meant solemn and grinding practices, ridiculously hot temperatures and bunking up with a roommate in a college dorm room in the middle of nowhere.

Seahawks practices today are like a carnival. There are thousands of people in attendance, there’s music blaring, the practice facility is like a resort and the players stay in a nice hotel right here in town.

My question is this: Do the training camps of today come at the expense of the bonding experience that came with the isolation and adversity of the camps when I played?

You build off the field relationships when there’s no one else around but your teammates. You hang out in your room and play cards together or sneak away to have a couple of beers in the only bar in town.

But since I haven’t been to training camp since 1995, I thought I’d ask some guys who know. Craig Terrill, my teammate on the Seahawks pre- & post-radio show and former defensive tackle for the Seahawks, experienced both types of camp.

“There was some value to being isolated in a place like Cheney,” said Terrill. “It was just us, so we hung out together, played cards, went to a movie when there was down time.” That was Camp Cheney with head coach Mike Holmgren at Eastern Washington University.

Terrill also got a taste of a Pete Carroll training camp at the end of his career, and being a family man he certainly appreciated the benefits of being closer to home.

“It was nice to be able to see my family whenever I wanted to,” said Terrill.

Linebacker Heath Farwell has also experienced both atmospheres. He went to four training camps with the Minnesota Vikings who have gone to Minnesota State in Mankato, Minn. for 49 years. For Farwell, there are good things about both scenarios.

“It’s just different,” said Farwell. “With the Vikings, there was lots of tradition in Mankato. We did build some camaraderie there. I remember Jimmy Kleinsasser and Steve Hutchinson playing their guitars in the dorm rooms. We played lots of cards.”

But there’s a downside to living in a dorm room.

“In Mankato we were sleeping on mattresses thrown down on a cement floor,” Farwell said. “Now we stay in a nice hotel with a comfortable bed that gets made up every morning.”

Like Terrill, Farwell is also a family man and likes the advantage of being closer to home in Renton.

“The boys and my wife come to practice every once in a while and I’m able to sneak home and see them when there’s time,” Farwell added. “But it’s not as if team chemistry disappears because of that.”

Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks’ fourth-year wide receiver, agrees with Farwell’s sentiment.

“There are still plenty of opportunities to build strong ties with your teammates,” said Baldwin. “Camaraderie is built in the locker room and the meeting rooms and on the field.”

Baldwin credits Coach Carroll for building strong relationships between the players and coaches.

“He brings in guys like Bill Russell to speak to the team,” Baldwin said. “He brought in Steve Kerr the other day.

“Pete gives us memories.”

With so much technology in play those relationships are built in creative ways too. Baldwin pointed to his tweet welcoming quarterback Tarvaris Jackson back to the team last year.

“That’s shows camaraderie and my support for my teammates to everyone,” said Baldwin.

I do have some oddly fond memories of the rigors of double-day practices, believe it or not. At the time, I was counting the days down until the end of camp. But when I think back on it, there was some joy and a sense of togetherness that only comes from a shared misery.

When I played in Denver, the Broncos training camps were held in Greeley, Colo. The only thing significant in Greeley besides the University of Northern Colorado where we stayed was a beef processing plant. The smell in the air was enough to make you vomit if the practices in 100 degree weather didn’t. But we found things to do and ways to create diversions. After the second practice of the day and just before dinner was served, John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Mike Lodish and I would enjoy a beverage or two, watch Jeopardy!, and compete to see who could answer the questions first. It became a tradition that other guys eventually joined in on and created an opportunity for teammates to bond. I know it doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but it’s something I enjoyed about going to camp and being around the guys.

Things have changed, and in this case, for the better. Teams are practicing smarter, eating better and taking better care of the players. Those things are much easier for the Seahawks to do right here at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

As for team chemistry, based on my conversations with players and coaches, it hasn’t been sacrificed one bit.

Farwell put it best: “It’s a little bit different, but guys still hang out together in the hotel and in between practices and off the field. That bonding still exists”