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THIS ONE TIME, AT TRAINING CAMP
August 20, 2012
The road from late July to early September is long and winding, and it bypasses Chicago and New Orleans for Bourbonnais and Metairie. Let SI's football guru be your NFL training camp guide
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August 20, 2012

This One Time, At Training Camp

The road from late July to early September is long and winding, and it bypasses Chicago and New Orleans for Bourbonnais and Metairie. Let SI's football guru be your NFL training camp guide

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In the 48 minutes it took for me to travel from the Phoenix car-rental area to a point 50 miles north on I-17, climbing toward Flagstaff, the temperature dropped from 106°F to 63°F.

Most Entertaining Diversion

Auburn Doubledays G.M. Adam Winslow invited me to throw the first pitch before a minor league baseball game in upstate New York. Gagne had purchased a football and suggested I throw that. Which I did—a spiral low and outside, to Doubledays catcher Craig Manuel. "Good arm," Manuel remarked. He was just being nice.

Stretch of Road My Traveling Companions Would Most Like to Forget

Somewhere in the middle of the 607 miles from suburban Atlanta to suburban Washington, D.C., while writing MMQB and running on fumes at around 3 a.m., I cued up iTunes. Team SI questioned my choice of artists (Ke$ha, Rolling Stones, Miley Cyrus, Springsteen, Linkin Park, Coldplay, R.E.M., Carly Rae Jepsen), and they recoiled at the sound of my karaoke. But, hey, anything to stay awake at that hour. Hornsby, naturally, slept through it all.

Last Saturday, a bit worn down and looking forward to getting home for a few days, I stood on the sidelines at Bears camp in Bourbonnais, where the sun was beating down. And just in front of us, newcomer Brandon Marshall was dueling cornerback Charles (Peanut) Tillman in one-on-one drills. One after another, receivers come to the line, corners line up opposite, a quarterback yells signals, and off they go. It's competitive, feisty.

Marshall is up. Across from him: Cornelius Brown, a camp corner fighting for a roster spot. Marshall steps aside and motions for another receiver to go. "Hey, Peanut!" he calls, waving Tillman in for the next rep. It's clear, if Marshall's going to be out here working as hard as he can, he wants to go against the best corner the Bears have. And that's Tillman.

Marshall stutter-steps at the line, dekeing right then left, and takes off, a step ahead of Tillman. Jay Cutler leads Marshall perfectly, and Marshall grabs it. Gain of 35. Marshall jogs back, smiling. And Tillman, head down, gets instruction from his position coach.

That's Training Camp 101. And that's what you travel 13,581 miles to see.

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