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Training Camp Experience


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For those that have never been to Training Camp, particularly to Flowery Branch, I thought I would give you a description.

As a kid, I had camp with the NY Jets on Hoftra University campus. The NFL players used College dorm rooms and it was used to get those fat guys into playing shape. Brutal compared to today.

Flowery Branch is a typical North Georgia town on the railroad with some small manufacturing plants. I’m pretty sure Mr. Blank chose the location because the Suwanne Location was very exposed. You could literally see the practice filed from McDonalds. The Player’s hotel was not so great.

The thing that makes Flowery Branch great for secure practice is also the thing that makes it tough on fans visiting. Small town road, small town cops, limited parking and lots of walking to get to the field.

If you are coming, the gate opens 1 hour before practice. Plan on traffic if you don’t get there early. Plan to walk a very long way. There is a shuttle, but the parking is more than a more at the furthest point. Even once inside the gate, you have a good half mile to the hillside. Not too much shade, so hot days are HOT. No coolers allowed this year. Long lines for food, lots of distractions for the little ones and plenty of things to spend money on.

The facility if first class. The “Dorm” is beautiful. I would not doubt some players find it nicer than their homes.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

I just come to watch the practice, but I get a little excited when I see the Falcons Sign at the entrance. All the way in there are reminders that the team is headquartered there. Very helpful people offer directions and little freebees. As you walk through the parking lot, it is set up with carnival type stuff, but you know around the corner is going to be a football field.

There it is, green and perfect. After going through the gate you realize that there are two fields side by side. Nothing between you and the field but a simple yellow rope (and lots of security). Immediately you hear whistles, smell cut grass and feel like summer two-a-days are about to start. My blood starts pumping even as I remind myself I am just here to watch. Looking past the second field is the indoor practice facility. Players only, no fans allowed.

Fans have from midway through the endzone all the way up the field to the far endzone. There is a natural hill running along the full length. Probably for security, but for the fans, it offers excellent view. There is pretty limited shade and seating at the top of the hill, but too far for me.

The practice has roughly 100 players, a dozen coaches, couple dozen “helpers” shagging balls and holding yardage markers, picking up equipment and setting up for drills. Both fields are used for drills, but the 7-7 drills and 11-11 drills happen right there in front of the hillside. You can hear much of the coaches and some players interact with the crowd.

The crowd is every age, color and nationality. Most in their black and red!

Come early to see the Special Teams Punting and kicking. Practice starts slow with stretching and light jogging. Afterwards each group breaks off for their own drills. LB’s one end, RB’s the other, TE another. The offense does their walk-throughs with the seconds and thirds playing Defense.

One of the highlights is the passing drills with no defenders. Easy to see each pass, each route and each catch. Also this reveals some of the player’s personalities. Roddy plays to the crowd. Julio is all business. Also you can see the players interact. Some are clearly closer friends.

After more drills, there are live 7-7 drills. The defense does not like to be beat. Much of the time the offense and defense are kept apart, on different parts of the field. Clear to see there is no love between some opposing players this time of the year. Defense cannot hit and cannot tackle and that seems to frustrate the younger guys. Stupidly some take it out on the field. I am sure it will get worse, but it is already easy to see tempers flare.

11-11 drills also happen right there on the field by the hill. Offense on one side, defense on the other. Offensive coaches are behind the Offense, Defense behind the defense. Unless you are watching one player, it is very hard to tell what is happening in the interior. Big plays get big reactions. Most of us can see what’s going on with deep balls. Very little clutter, just a ball in the air and 2-3 players going after it. It is a thing of beauty to see Julio go untouched into the endzone. It is just as much fun to see a defender break on the ball and make a play.

At the end of practice many players will walk the line and sign anything you hand them. Many of the big name guys do not sign every day. In fairness they are being interviewed and tugged on by other people too. Some days you get lucky, other days you get the big rookies that will be gone in a few weeks.

I walk to my car with a big stupid grin on my face, thankful that I got to watch a bunch of grown up kids play a kid’s game. Yes, I am a Ballfan.

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Good stuff man. Should submit this as a fanshot on the Falcoholic. It's well written.

I don't really know what that is, but feel free to share it. I hope all the old jocks understand the feeling and anyone that has a hard time walking is well warned. I feel bad for some people knowing how far they have to go to sit down again.
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This got me thinking about Rams camp back when I lived in SoCal, mid 70s. I'd play tennis at a local high school after work, and this time of year, the Rams would work out right alongside the tennis courts. At a high school for cryin' out loud! And nobody cared. No crowds, no autograph seekers, no security. I once mishit a ball that landed in the middle of their practice and one of them just chucked it back. The Age of Innocence, I guess.

.

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Nice write up.

Been going there since they moved there, and a few hints:

1. Park across the street from the gate down towards the school when it's open - there is a shuttle that runs back and forth and will take you up the hill so you don't have to walk that part.

2. The lady who lives across the street from the gate at the top of the hill will let you park there for a few bucks. Very close.

3. If you can work out going on a day when they do their little tours - do it. You can go through the indoor facility, you walk around by the dorms, around the field and back to the other side.

4. Unless they changed it this year - Bring umbrellas and chairs. You can set up down by the field - and keep cool with the umbrellas. They will occasionally give out water - and they have the misters going to help with the heat as well.

5. Take sunblock - or suntan lotion - especially if you have kids - it gets brutal out there at times.

I love going - you see a lot you don't get to see at the stadium - and you start seeing who is improving/struggling - and try to pick your own 53. It's fun intermingling with other fans and getting their take on things at the same time.

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Nice write up.

Been going there since they moved there, and a few hints:

1. Park across the street from the gate down towards the school when it's open - there is a shuttle that runs back and forth and will take you up the hill so you don't have to walk that part.

2. The lady who lives across the street from the gate at the top of the hill will let you park there for a few bucks. Very close.

3. If you can work out going on a day when they do their little tours - do it. You can go through the indoor facility, you walk around by the dorms, around the field and back to the other side.

4. Unless they changed it this year - Bring umbrellas and chairs. You can set up down by the field - and keep cool with the umbrellas. They will occasionally give out water - and they have the misters going to help with the heat as well.

5. Take sunblock - or suntan lotion - especially if you have kids - it gets brutal out there at times.

I love going - you see a lot you don't get to see at the stadium - and you start seeing who is improving/struggling - and try to pick your own 53. It's fun intermingling with other fans and getting their take on things at the same time.

Yes to all of the above. Chairs and umbrella are still fine. No cooler, no food. I bring a refillable water bottle and they have water coolers for the fans too.

Almost forgot: fun moment on Saturday and Sunday both, Matt Ryan started practice by firing a ball up onto the hill. I think he turned to the equipment guys and said "Bill me". Fan went home with a ball both days.

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Honestly sounds amazing....even the walk. Living a good 1800+ miles away i haven't even been able to attend a game in Atlanta. Which is sad considering i've been a fan since before Deion was a rookie. Maybe i can talk the wife into a vacation out of it next year lol. Thanks for doing a great job of painting a picture for us!

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Happy to do it. I know many can't go and many have no idea what to expect. I meant to include the other possibility. Thunder means lightning is somewhere and I have seen them go inside even without a drop of rain. I do not think anyone wants to risk lightning for the fans, players, or camera guy up un the towers. probably good idea to check the forecast if you are coming a long way.

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awesome write up.....

after reading all the camp threads, I have decided that next year I am going to plan a ride down there to catch a couple days of camp.

it will be 2 of my greatest passions combined, the Falcons and carving up windy roads on my bike....

anyway, thanks for the insight into what its like, come on sept 8th!!!!

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My daughter and I went to training camp yesterday for the first time, had a great time and arrived about 2:30, walked a good way, but I need the exercise anyway, we got some very useful tips from some on here and did need the sunblock, great to see Matt Bryant nail 50-60 yarder clear over the scissor lift and hitting the building, Shelley also nailed em, in all got about 15 autographs and some great up close pics, will be going back again, over 6000 sunday but worth the 2 hr drive.

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