For almost two decades, the Redskins have made Dickinson College their summer home. The club spends about $100,000 to finance its five-week stay. To many players, it seems more like an eternity.
Consider, for example, the plight of defensive tackle Dwight Carey. He hurt his foot early in camp and was spending most practices walking around a quarter-mile track. One day, he walked, he said, eight miles.
"I never walked that far in my life," he said. "Then I come to football camp and I wind up learning how to walk."
For Carey, a rookie free agent from Texas-Arlington, training camp lost its glamor quickly. Beteran Redskins could have warned him quickly about the pitfalls of a summer in Carlisle.
"I don't care who you are," said defensive end Joe Jones, a nine-year veteran of training camp life. "In about two weeks, you are tired of it.
"But you learn to put up with it because it is a business. You have to put up with it. I'd love to see them use it strictly for conditioning and not do so much hitting, but after awhile, you sort of glide through it."
As camps go, this year's Redskin version is heavy on contact work but light on duration. Five weeks along, it is one of the shortest in the NFL; George Allen thought nothing of going eight weeks, and never saying when it would end.
"George liked the suspense," said tight end Jean Fugett. "That way, everyone would be on edge. But it was tough to plan out your life when you never knew when you were leaving here. It could make camp very long."
The players association has put a halt to that kind of uncertainty. This camp has an announced finish -- August 16, -- and players are given regular days off. They also can have phones in their rooms.
But those concessions are small, particularly when pitted against having to sleep in dormitory rooms, enduring snoring roommates, having 7 a.m. breakfasts and 11 p.m. curfews.
Just imagine putting on pads, a helmet, a uniform, heavy shoes and then marching outside in the middle of a typical Washington-like summer day and banging heads with some 260-pound strong man for 2 1/2 hours. Twice daily.
Diron Talbert once lost 13 pounds in one practice trying to survive this routine. Dave Butz thinks nothing of shedding eight pounds a session. And if a player or two doesn't develop heat cramps during a camp, Redskin officials would be shocked.
But the lure of professional football is so great that an average of some 120 players showed up this summer at each of the 26 NFL camps from florida to California, hoping to earn a spot on the 45-man rosters.
On the 73 men still left with the Redskins, 34 will have to be cut by August 28. The ones who last almost that long will be in terrific condition and, for their sacrifice, will at least be able to tell their grandchildren that at least they tried.
The tables were covered with red-and-white checked cloths. Candles glowed throughout the room. Scrumptious pieces of veal parmigiana and delightful kettles of spaghetti simmered on nearby stoves.
An intimate Italian eatery? A Southern Pennsylvania hideway? Hardly. Just the Redskin training table.
What the players sweat off in the excruciating heat and humidity during the day they mostly put back on with pleasure on the chow line at dinner.
Forget the image of hugh players hacking away seven days a week at thick steaks and mounds of potatoes. Food is just one of the many surprises this training camp holds for a first-time observer. The Redskins don't like steaks all that much.
They have asked for more variety in their fare. Hence, the Italian night, complete with bread sticks, garlic bread, antipasto. Also, they can devour as many helpings as they want.
Breakfast is the only mandatory meal in camp, but attendence is high for dinner.And there is always a big run on the well-stocked ice cream counter.
A peculiarity: no milk is served at lunch. Seems it upsets many players' stomachs during the afternoon workouts.
The players and staff have eaten about 2,000 pounds of steak by the time camp ends (it's a good thing they don't like it.) They devour some 200 pounds of prime rib at a sitting, along with 35 pounds of tomatoes. They love potatoes but aren't much for vegetables. Fish is so much popular that it is served as an added entree at almost every dinner.
This team eats less than former Redskin clubs, apparently because the athletes are more conscious of their waist dimensions.
The old, hard-living Redskins are a vanishing breed. Some players still frequent the team's favorite local hangout, the Gingerbread Man, for a quick brew before curfew. And the offensive linemen still have their own hideaway after the afternoon practice, where they can discuss how much fun it is to go one on one with Butz in a nutcracker drill.
There really isn't much time for late-night frolic. After practicing all day, the club holds meetings starting at 7:30 p.m. and lasting to 9:30 or 10. Besides, sleep is usually more tempting than being fined for missing curfew.
Camp under Jack Pardee is different. Allen didn't believe in much contact during practices. He much prefered perfecting the nuances of his complicated defenses. There wasn't much competition for positions either, so veterans could work at their own pace instead of trying to fend off a rookie.
"The veterans had things worked out pretty good," said one Redskin. "Like in the nutcracker, they would let each other look good. They'd ease off at times. No use hurting each other."
But that was before the Over-the-Hill gang was purged and weightlifting became mandatory and the players realized almost every spot on the club was being contested.
There isn't any fooling around, nor many boring moments. Instead, the Redskins pummel each other much of the time. And if the clashes aren't loud enough, they are chastised by their coaches.
"I'm sure no one likes to hit teammates," said defensive coordinator Doc Urich, "but it's part of the business. They don't have much choice. They take it like pros."
It's difficult not to get caught up in the athletic environment of training camp. The players are in great shape and most of the staff, especially General Manager Bob Beathard, a bona fide marathoner, is into running.
But when one reporter tried to get into the swing this summer, it meant nothing but trouble: sprained ankle from running too far in new shoes, a dislocated finger from a pickup basketball game and bruised ribs from the same contest.
"I knew this camp was rough," said Pardee, "but not that rough."
Most pro football players no longer drive luxury cars. One casual count in the Redskin parking lot included 12 pickup trucks and campers. Center Bob Kuziel tools around in an old Volkswagen van. John Riggins pilots a hugh motorcycle.
Other than driving the half-mile to the practice field, the various vehicles aren't used much. There just isn't much to do in Carlisle. The movie threater was showing 101 Dalmatians.
At least the Dickinson campus is beautiful. Marked by towering trees. and grassy walks, and chapel bells ringing out "the Old Rugged Cross," it fits in nicely with the town, which is filled with large, elegant churches. This is middle America, small-town America: the roads are sprinkled with souped-up cars from the 1960s and one pedestrian was spotted wearing slicked-back-hair.
The town and the team are at peace. There are "Welcome Redskin" signs in store windows and a horde of citizens attend practices daily.
"They throw so much at you," said rookie Tony Hall of training camp. "At first you don't think you can absorb all of it. Meetings, practices, more meetings.
"I knew it coming but I think you have to go through it to know how to handle it. It can overwhelm you, but you can't let it get your down."
"Just think what this means," said quarterback Joe Theismann after what probably was his 50th interview since camp opened (other media favorites: Terry Anderson and his tarantula, Tony Green and Pete Wysocki).
"We've finished three weeks of camp," Theismann went on. "Now there are just 19 weeks left to the end of the regular season."
It was a sobering thought. CAPTION: Picture 1, Redskin Coach Jack Pardee rides his bicycle around the campus; Picture 2, one of the customary drills finds receivers working against linebackers and safety men in passing practice; Picture 3, some players with their ever-present playbooks, stroll from the dining hall toward their dormitory; Picture 4, Brad Dusek load their bowls at the salad bar, in the chow line kicker Mark Moseley, and linebacker a popular feature of training camp cuisine, by Richard Darcey -- The Washington Post