Some NFL training camp storylines you won’t see

Gene Collier
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH — With NFL training camps opening coast-to-coast this week, the football news cycles for the next six or seven weeks figure to flip past like a well-worn playbook, if that’s still a thing.

No one likes to point out that most training camp stories are inescapably of a certain prototype, many as predictable as the Jaguars on third-and-10, but true is true.

People will get hurt, other people will “have to step up,” camp battles will emerge and flame out, a few stars will leave on a cart, “seismically altering the balance of power in the AFC,” or the NFC as the case may be. Rookies and free agents will be muffing punts all over the lawn, along with their evaporating chances of sticking on special teams. A few draft choices will, based on early impressions, “figure to make an immediate impact,” and coaches will say virtually nothing about virtually anything and inwardly congratulate themselves because they are so darn good at it.

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Today this space offers none of those things, but rather a handful of training camp stories that you definitely won’t see, much as I’d dearly love to read them. What follows is fiction, because regrettably, it has to be. Truck Smith doesn’t exist, and that’s a shame. But just once, wouldn’t you like to read …


OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Ten-year veteran outside linebacker Truck Smith, who spent part of the offseason rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered last December, said after today’s morning practice that at 32, he’s probably in the worst shape of his life.

“I mean, rehab is a (very bad word),” Smith said between defensive meetings. “Fact is, I was usually so exhausted from my rehab that I didn’t have the energy to do my regular training.”

Normally not one for excuses, Smith readily admitted that his offseason diet and his social calendar probably didn’t help matters.

“You ever eat a potato-chip sandwich?” he said with a wry smile.

“A what?” a writer wondered.

“Potato-chip sandwich – take two slices of Italian bread, butter ‘em generously, pile some chips on one as high as you can, like Jenga, then, careful, take that other slice to the top of the stack, butter side down, and JAM that sucker hard onto the stack.

“Dude, that’s a lunch. So where it says I’m 6-foor-4, 225, add about 12, 14 pounds.”

Asked whether he’d stayed closer to a more disciplined routine as training camp drew near, Smith said, “Well, you know what I always say, ‘June and most of July, that’s for violating the open container laws at any of several beach front communities, not for thinkin’ about football.”


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Twenty-two practices and two preseason games into his rookie season, fourth-round draft pick Truck Smith said Monday that he probably shouldn’t have been drafted as high as he was.

“Yeah I’ve had a bunch of practices now and been in a few games, and it feels like I was way overrated,” Smith told reporters after gaining six yards on seven carries the other night against Jacksonville. “There were holes to run through, but damned if I could get to them. As for yards after contact, I think I turned in a solid zero on that too.”

Asked if there was a particular area in which NFL scouts might have misevaluated his potential, Smith said, “Pretty much everything. Especially those guys who said I could play in any system and, you know, had a great feel for my blockers, had electric ability in the open field, all that. I haven’t gotten to any open field yet.

“There were a few scouts who said stuff like, ‘Smith would have been rated higher if it weren’t for some physical limitations, like the lack of speed that was illustrated at the combine. Some said I projected as a backup. I’m starting to hope for that. Feels like, right now, I’m here to prove the doubters right.”


MANKATO, Minn. – Veteran NFL head coach Truck Smith stunned a morning press conference and rattled the league’s coaching fraternity by announcing that he and his staff will be looking at a lot less video of their opponents this season.

“How many hours in a day, days in a week, weeks and months in a year, can grown men sit in the dark watching people knock each other down?” Smith said. “It’s insane. Sure there’s a premium we put on self-evaluation, but how many third-and-long, fourth-and-short, second-and-medium situations can you look at for opponent tendencies? This game would be a lot better off with some spontaneity, if somebody could run a play that everybody hadn’t seen 13,000 times. Chances are that if you’ve seen 13,000 jet sweeps, you’ve seen ‘em all.”

And Tank was just getting started:

“I’m calling our opponents this year and asking them to join me. We’re always saying, it’s not about them, it’s about us. We just have to worry about what we’re doing. Let’s put our money where our mouths are on that.”

Reaction to Smith’s remarks came fast and, for the most part, furious, with some of the game’s coaching stalwarts even suggesting Smith have a mental health screening.

Film study and analysis have been at the bedrock of coaching for going on a century, some pointed out, even as they recalled that when pioneering head coach Sid Gilman once said to former Houston coach Bum Phillips, “Bum, watching film is better than sex,” Phillips replied, “Sid, either you’re doing it wrong or I’m watching the wrong films.”

Thankfully, that last part, about Sid and Bum, is approximately true.