Are there any good stories of anybody getting him back?
Yeah, you know, he was also the biggest target because he got so many people. The other thing that always seemed to evolve in training camp was, for whatever reason, the linebackers and the defensive line always have a little bit of a rivalry. We take the same elevator up to team meetings, we have dorm rooms that are near each other. And there tended to be this battle where we would each prey on the younger guys in the other one's room. And it escalated. It was like this tit for tat, you know, what would have been the worst possible outcome of the Cold War, where everyone retaliates with a little bit more aggression.
So what started out as, like, they would pull a rookie onto the elevator and unclip his name tag and throw it out on the wrong floor, which was a relatively minor offense because the guy could just go upstairs and get it. By the end of training camp, we would pull, or one of our guys would get pulled, onto the elevator with a bunch of people from the opposite position group, and by the time the elevator doors opened two floors up, he would have popcorn in his hair, three or four Gatorades dumped on his head, his underwear was torn because he had a wedgie, and his playbook was torn into like 500 pieces and thrown all over the elevator.
No! You even ripped up the playbook?
[Laughs.] Oh yeah. It was everything. And these poor guys would basically get beat up, and then tossed back to the rest of their position group. This process evolved over three or four training camps in a row. We'd start out with a truce, and then somebody would break it, and then it would gradually escalate to where we were on the edge of nuclear holocaust by the time training camp ended because everybody was so on edge.
Tommie Harris one year put — I'm trying to think of what the most common brand names are, for just like a normal, Flexall warm-you-up sort of thing. We have this Tabasco sauce version of Flexall that's called Tiger Balm. And you need about a thumbnail worth of this to get an entire hamstring warmed up and feeling like you just ran a marathon that it's so hot and ready to go. Guys use a lot of that in training camp because they need to keep their body warmed up and not pull any muscles. So it escalated to the point where I showed up to practice one day, and unbeknownst to me until we were about 10 minutes into stretch, Tommie Harris had coated my jock strap in Tiger Balm. I literally cannot begin to describe how painful that was, but there was full retaliation, and for the rest of training camp after Tommie did that to me, everybody, the first thing they would do when they got to their locker before practice was smell everything to make sure they hadn't been victimized.
Overall, do you have any favorite training camp story about the fun?
Despite having just told all of those stories, I always thought that training camp was worse in anticipation than it actually was going through it. Other than the physical toll on your body, there's something very simple and poignant — you have this singularity of purpose with 80 or 90 other guys, and you spend every hour of every day all working toward the same goal. You're taking great care of your body. Other than a few guys who go out and get a few beers every now and then, nobody's really out that much. There was just this mindset of "It's time to get back to work." Most guys are ready to work by the time training camp comes around.
So I know this article is kind of a funny take on things, but one of my favorite parts of training camp is when you're like three weeks in, you've probably had no more than a beer at the most over those three weeks, and you get a night off, and you go with your whole position group – there's this Mexican spot down there called La Siesta. And we would all go to La Siesta and everybody would get a margarita or something. And when you haven't had a sip of alcohol and you've been sweating and working out like we have for three weeks, it doesn't take more than maybe one margarita before you're already feeling like, "woooooo!"
I always just loved that first break in training camp where you and your buddies have been working your asses off, and you get this first glimpse of life returning to normal, and you feel good about how hard you've been working. In the end, I think a lot of guys share that mindset, that training camp, when you're done, you feel really good about what you just did and what you just put yourself through.
Last thing: Is there anything about training camp that you miss?
Probably that part that I just described. I have a ritual now where I have to do something fun instead of being at training camp the first day. So I'm playing golf on Thursday when they're having their first training camp practice. And this is my favorite time of year to be a former Bear, but when you're rolling out of training camp and driving back to your house, especially if you're a guy who knows you made the team, and you're very comfortable with your roster spot and you can kind of turn your attention from training camp to the regular season, that is just a fantastic feeling. And I know that a lot of guys can relate to that.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. Say hey @readjack.Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page.