The distance from the Redskin dorms to the practice fields is less than half a mile although this morning it seemed all the way from the temperate zone to the tropics.
"It was so cool up there," said Kirk Mee, the director of pro personnel. "But here? You can feel it getting ready."
By 8:30 a.m., every part of the grassy sauna was in place: a dozen footballs were at attention - seams up - on one end; large and menacing pieces of equipment were scattered here and there, to be hit or lifted in order to help large and menacing Redskins gain an edge against opponents that now include themselves.
It was about half an hour before attendance was mandatory, but an obscure punter, Rich Pennella, thought it mandatory to be there, stretching his legs, providing the only movement at a place every Redskin dreads - until he is asked to leave.
The pro football training camp is like no other, tougher mentally and physically than baseball and basketball can ever imagine. The baseball player might be frustrated about being shipped to some one-pump town, but he at least has a job. Minor pro basketball leagues are popping up all over the country.
Like its other military analogies, the NFL busts men into another life, Or until they give it a try next year.
"In the other sports, most everything can be measured, even in training camps," said Coach Jack Pardee. "Hits and good pitches, baskets. Football is more subjective. And a whole lot of what one player does depends on what a few of his teammates do, especially on the offensive and defensive lines."
The essence of every NFL training camp - and especially this one, where few players are noticeably superior to the herd - is to attract attention, to grab the eye of an assistant and hope it lingers more than an instant.
Terry Anderson's tarantula is a bit extreme, although clearly helpful. A felloe with that sort of pet casts the fearless image coaches consider requisite in a receiver-returner. It was wise of Jesse O'Neal, a defensive lineman, to practically live in the exercise rooms of Redskin Park since February.
These days, marginal players report to training camp five months ahead of time.
Still, there are more ways of gaining notice, of grabbing whatever edge is necessary to make the team, than might immediately come to mind. Sometimes, malingering is useful.
"You'll see it with receivers and runners more than anywhere else, although it can happen in every area," said Bobby Mitchell. "Say you have guys lined up to run pass routes and you're fourth. What you might do is slyly drop back to the end of the line now and then, so you don't run on every turn.
"That way, you're fresh when you do perform. You look a little better than the others, especially on a day as hot as this, and the coach thinks: 'Now there's a man in shape.'"
Also, if recent history is repeated, two or three prospects here will fake an injury to last a few extra days, hoping the player or two ahead of them will be hurt so a place on the roster suddenly becomes available.
In no other sport is being in the proper place at the proper time so vital.
"There was a kid from Michigan State here a few years ago, a running back who I'm sure was faking it," Mitchell said. "And sure enough, a guy ahead of him got hurt. Trouble was the guy was too indecisive, took too long to decide whether to get well or not. By the time he decided to get healthy, we'd brought in another runner.
"If he hadn't waited so long, one day instead of two, I think he'd have made the team."
The quickest and surest way to gain recognition is to rattle a few heads in practice. Not just any head will do. It must have a price on it, belong to a respected veteran. Unknown scalps pay little here.
For more than a decade, the block every hungry, unknown cornerback here wanted to chop off belonged to Charley Taylor, the certain Hall of Fame receiver. Cochise never attracted so many shots.
"Everytime I came up (to catch a practice pass), they'd fight to get in there," said Taylor, now a scout. "That was their chance to make the club. 'Course, they could lose a job the same way. But they had to try. They'd say to the (defensive backfield) coach: 'I can handle him.'
"Mostly, they couldn't."
One practice in Tampa a decade ago, an obscure cornerback tore into Taylor with such zest that they began fighting. And Vince Lombardi ran half the length of the field screaming at the rookie, because nobody was supposed to hit receivers that day.
Soon the entire camp knew that rookie. Ted Vactor lasted five years with the Redskins.
Helmet cracking got Mike Bass a six-year job as right cornerback, although Taylor suggests Aaron Martin might have been able to hold the job if he had not been such a smart-mouth.
"Me and Mike talked a lot," said Taylor, mischief aglow on his expressive face, a long-held secret about to escape. "For some reason Martin was never able to stay near me. But Mike was. These things happen sometimes, you know.
"Quaterbacks, are the real key. A receiver's got to get inside that man's head, 'cause he's nothing if the pass isn't close enough to grab instead of slippin' off the fingers."
All the tarantulas and leaping catches, the whooping and hitting in practice, the conspiracies, are useless unless a player does well in a game.The NFL also has its 1 o'clock hitters.
And yet even that sometimes is not enough to earn a job. A rookie named Mike Williams returned kicks spectacularly last preseason, but failed to make the team. The all-time luckless Redskin was a mid-'60s quarterback named Richie Badar, who was allowed to play down against the Eagles during an exhibition and threw a 99-yard touchdown pass.
Nobody ever made a better debut.He was cut two days later. CAPTION: Picture, Joe (Turkey) Jones: I'm setting an example. If people see what it (weightlifting) does for me, then they'll do it, too." By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post