I have to admit, Peter King and the rest of my good friends and colleagues at The MMQB always sound like they have a ton of road-tripping frenetic fun during their NFL training camp tours. But a van, bus, logo or entourage are not required to see and experience the best, most enjoyable weeks of the league’s annual calendar as they unfold every summer. And for the 16th year in a row, on behalf of SI.com, I’ll be out to prove that point when I launch my own camp tour later this week—just a man in his car, traversing the NFL landscape as football springs back to life.
Well, OK, two men, with a couple flights thrown into the mix. But that’s as complicated as we get, and I actually prefer it that way. Last year, when an SI.com editor proposed for the first time to send videographer Jim Butts with me for the majority of my camp tour, my only response was: “I hope he likes baseball on the radio and long drives at night."
But last year’s two-man-crew experiment went exceedingly well, with us combining to generate both video and written content at each of our camp stops, so Butch and Sundance are back for more (perhaps Thelma and Louise?). For the most part, we’re visiting different teams this year compared to 2014’s largely East Coast-based itinerary, even though we will start with the nearby Jets and Giants now that I have moved yet again, relocating to Brooklyn, N.Y. Since being hired in early 2000, I’ve lived in Minneapolis, Columbia, Md., Boston, Madison, Wis., suburban Philadelphia and now New York. And that geographic diversity has allowed me to see plenty of the NFL training camp scene, with a wealth of summertime miles and memories logged during my travels.
Here’s a brief preview of our tour this year, including a few things that I hope to learn and a look back at some interesting nuggets from that team’s camp stop in years past:
New York Jets, Florham Park, N.J., July 31
Two things I hope to learn—The Jets have historically loved to hire head coaches with a defensive background, but will the new boss, first-time head coach Todd Bowles, have any more of a handle on how to elevate New York’s offense to first-class status than the departed Rex Ryan, who never managed it? And can third-year QB Geno Smith perform well enough, early enough in Chan Gailey’s offense to relegate veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to the role the Jets hope and pray he fills, that of a richly experienced backup/insurance policy? Once again, it’s your move, Geno.