August 18, 2014

Inside Detroit Lions Training Camp

I don't know about you, but I had long assumed that an NFL training camp session would look fairly similar to a high school football team's practice: You know, a lot of huffing and puffing from the players, sidelines littered with Gatorade squirt bottles, and a coach or two wielding a clipboard and a whistle.

And then I actually attended an NFL training camp session and realized that I was wrong.

It is more than just a practice, it is pure entertainment that is, in some ways, more fascinating than The Big Game itself. If you blink, you might just miss something, so I was fortunate that The Hubs was present to run interference for me (that's a football term) and provide an explanation for things that I thought I understood but in actuality did not.

This is my second Detroit Lions Training Camp post. (You can find my first one here.) But unlike my first post, this one provides a blow-by-blow of what The Hubs and I experienced from beginning to end as guests of head coach Jim Caldwell...

And so it begins...
Lions staff accompany Scott and me onto the field at the exact moment that players are exiting the locker room. I join the line right behind tight end Eric Ebron, the Lion's first round draft pick (and 10th overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Entering "no diet" territory 
As the players proceed to the field, Scott and I are led into a comfortable and inviting area reserved only for special guests. Complete with a canopy, flooring, and Honolulu blue tablecloths, this was the perfect place to stop...
 ...and eat. (That's Lions Executive Chef Joe Nader looking on, left.) The menu that day included gourmet chicken and lamb pita sandwiches, spanakopita triangles, chicken skewers, and Greek salad. I really needed two plates:
Here Scott and I are (with full bellies, I might add) about to head out onto the field to see the players' practice up close:

Photos, please
The field is teeming with photographers. They are E-VER-Y-WHERE. The only other place I've seen cameras with long lenses like these are when paparazzi are chasing celebrities down on TMZ. And off in the distance, yet not too far away from the field, are all the TV news trucks. FYI: Those tall silver sticks are called masts, and they enable reporters to report live on location:

The eye in the sky
Meanwhile, the Lions have cameras of their own rolling: Two videographers are holding court -- 40 feet in the air -- on cherry pickers:
Practices are recorded so that the players and coaches can break it all down later in a room that looks nearly identical to a college lecture hall.

Looking back
The view of the special guests tent from the football field. Just looking at it now makes me want another pita sandwich...

Paying tribute

Above the tent hangs this flag: In March of this year, the Detroit Lions mourned the loss of William Clay Ford, Senior, who had served as the organization's owner since 1963. In Ford's honor, Lions players will this season don a patch on their uniforms that is identical to the flag.

Thank you, Coach!
Scott with Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell, who is just all-around awesome. While his players took a break between drills, he came over to welcome us and say hello.

Past and present
I caught Scott looking on, deep in thought, as members of the offensive line -- the position that he used to play -- ran through drills. Having walked in these players shoes for nearly seven seasons, Scott knows what these players are about to do before they do it.

In the video below, Scott gives a recap of the day's training camp session thus far...

Breathing room
Members of the Lions defensive, including defensive end Ziggy Ansah, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, defensive end Jason Jones, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh taking a break between drills.

Just in case
Lest anyone get any ideas to run up on the players, there is security on standby.

The refs
The actual referees that call games during NFL games during the season are the same ones that attend training camp. And unbeknownst to many, these referees already have a primary job -- they are lawyers, doctors, airline pilots, and educators.

Marquee players
Detroit Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford in action. We were literally standing a stone's throw away from him when this photo was taken...which makes focusing on picture taking rather difficult when you're constantly looking over the shoulder for a flying ball.
Similarly, Scott and I were right in the thick of it when wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- aka "Megatron"-- ran this play. I'm not even kidding when I saw him running in our direction with break-neck speed, I did the sign of the cross and said a silent prayer that I wouldn't become spectator roadkill.

No blue chips, only black ones
The Detroit Lions are among a select group of NFL teams that have installed Zebra Technologies' real-time tracking system. The system involves players wearing a tiny black chip under their should pads, which will help teams to evolve training, scouting and evaluation through increased knowledge of player performance. This chip can actually detect the speed, distance, and duration of a player's run.

Just like old times
Near the end of practice we are greeted by a very familiar face: Lions Athletic Trainer Joe Recknagel, whom we refer to as simply "Trainer Joe." Having been with the Lions organization since 1980, Joe was a part of the staff when Scott played for the Lions.

Lights, camera...
The many faces of Reggie Bush: A crush of media descends upon the running back the minute practice ends, and he handles every question like a consummate professional.

Under the rainbow
This photo, courtesy of the Detroit Lions, captures the perfect ending to a wonderful summer afternoon.


  1. Whoa! This is totally different then high school football practice! The last picture with the rainbow is phenomenal You always have a way of making football interesting!

    1. Good Morning, Susie! Honestly? Can I tell you something? Your comment about making football interesting SO made my day. :-) Sometimes I feel as if readers might tire of my "dose" of football, but it's who we are. And NOT sharing it would be contrived.

      So my goal is to share our experiences in an approachable way.

      Your comment really, REALLY means a lot.

      Thank you so much.


    2. Awww, your welcome, Courtney and it is true! Steve loves football, but I don't. When I read your post about football I understand it and hime better!


  2. It is so cool you're able to be up close to all the action Courtney! For the fans, do they have to pay to watching the training?

    1. Hi, Louida! No, actually, attending any NFL training camp session -- even for your beloved Raiders! -- is always free. However, general fans have a bit less access than we had because they are not able to access the field -- I take that back; *sometimes* there is standing room only around the perimeter of the field. Fans are just not allowed directly on the field. Still, it's a great opportunity for fans to see the inner workings of their NFL team -- and there are autograph sessions afterwards, so fans are always encouraged to bring any memorabilia that they want autographed.

      Excellent question! I'm glad you asked...


    2. Thanks Courtney! I always had wonder this.

  3. It's so fun to see training camp through your eyes as fun...and not work! Great pics!

    1. Hi, Kristen...and thank you! Gourmet food, warm hospitality, and the opportunity to get closer than I even want to be at times. Nope, you're absolutely right: It's nothing like work! Only fun...

      Thanks for commenting, and great job on your daughter's first day of school post, by the way. That'll be me two years from now -- and I'm NOT looking forward to it...


  4. I don't even know where to begin because I'm SO excited about this ENTIRE post and I'm not even a Lions fan (sorry!). All of it is just way too cool - being on the field, talking with the coach, your husband's feelings about being there, the FOOD!! All of it. I would absolutely love to do something like this one day. And my favorite line? "I did the sign of the cross and said a silent prayer that I wouldn't become spectator roadkill." hahahaha! I cannot even imagine being in his sightline as he's running full speed!? Amazing!

    1. Hi, Allie! Thank you so much, and I was being dead serious -- no pun intended -- about the road kill comment. I swear, I really did that...

      And one more thing: Please, please, PLEASE never apologize for not being a Lions fan. Here's the thing: I want EVERY fan to feel welcome here. The way I see it, every single NFL franchise is part of one family -- the NFL family.

      I love it when people are die-hards for their team -- that's how it's supposed to be! Wave the flag for your team, girl!!!

      It's all good -- and it's all welcomed here. :-)

      Thank you for commenting!


  5. Thanks for the run down. It looks like you had fun. Good facts and tidbits info. I had no idea the referees had other jobs. But make sense for sure!

    1. Hi! And you're welcome. Thank you for stopping by...

      I think many -- if not most -- would be surprised to hear the tidbit about the refs -- I know I was.

      Thanks, again, for stopping by.


  6. Hi Courtney -

    Wow. As in... Wow. I had no idea that practice was such a celebrity event. This was really cool to see the behind the scenes of what it takes to make it to the field for Sunday games. Your pictures and narritive made it like I was on the field along with you and Scott. We live in the DC Metro area, and obviously a big football town too and I hear on the news about "training camp" for the Washington Redskins (are we still saying that? rumor has it there is a big controversary going on with the name??) and I always thought... why is training camp making the news? Well now I know. And let me end by saying again... Wow. Thanks for the behind the scenes my friend! Hugs, Holly

    1. Why, thank you, Holly! I'm glad you liked it! (Can I just pause for a moment to tell you how much I appreciate the compliments you rendered in your comment above?)

      THANK YOU.

      Hugs to you as well,


  7. Thanks for the sneak peek at the wonderful NFL players! :)

    1. Hi, Lexa...and thank you for taking the time to comment!


  8. Oh wow! This is so cool. What an awesome behind the scenes look at training camp!

    It looks and sounds like you were well fed. I had no idea that referees did other work... I just thought they were full-time referees LOL.

    Thanks so much for putting this together and giving a glimpse of something we otherwise wouldn't see!

    Wishing you a lovely evening.

    1. Jennifer! Hi! And thank you for stopping by...

      The sole impetus behind this post was exactly that: To give people a glimpse inside an arena that they likely wouldn't see -- even if they did attend training camp as a public spectator.

      Your comment means a lot.

      Wishing you a lovely evening as well, my friend!


  9. How fun! Those chips are so cool.

  10. Hi, Dina! Those chips are the new wave; the beginning of something very interesting,as far as fans and the game of football are concerned. Mark my words. You'll see...

    Thank you for visiting -- and commenting.