Washington Legends may have worn different jerseys, repped different team names and played in different home stadiums, but they all have one thing in common: training camp was never considered much fun.
"My favorite part of training camp was when it was over," said former wide receiver Roy Jefferson, who played for Washington in the '70s.
Former players from every generation shared this sentiment when prompted to look back on those weeks of summer.
"Yeah, I'll tell you my favorite part, when it ended and when he [coach] called off practice," said Rick "Doc" Walker (1980-1985) while watching practice from the bleachers on training camp Day 3. "It's hard to stand up here watching it let alone being down there in it."
"Nothing," said Super Bowl champion Ricky Ervins (1991-1994) when asked about his fondest training camp memories.
"It was the best when we'd get a surprise day off. You think you're gonna have practice and then they bring in the massage therapy," said former center Will Montgomery (2008-2013).
It would be hard to blame these players for holding such bleak beliefs about this time of the season. The days are long and hot; the aches are brutal; and there is an unparalleled emotional intensity that comes with fighting for your job in that preseason setting. In short, training camp is a grind.
Ervins will never forget the shock to his system during his first NFL training camp back in 1991.
"Keep in mind, during my era we hit every single day. We started training camp July 14 and didn't leave till August 20. Double days," the former running back explained. "My first week, man, we had pads on Monday, pads on Tuesday, Wednesday we scrimmaged the Jets. How are we going to scrimmage? We just got here! Thursday we had a scrimmage against Pittsburgh. It was crazy."
Crazy, perhaps, but no doubt a necessary evil. Legends also agreed that training camp was critical for prepping not just physically but mentally for the season.
"You play like you practice, so practice was the beginning of going into the season," said former linebacker Ken Harvey. "So, if I didn't hustle out here at practice, I wasn't all of a sudden just going to turn it on in the game."
Unlike minicamp and OTAs, many days of training camp back then and today bring a sizable fan presence, which helps contribute to game preparation and boost morale.
"The fans help. It sucks being out there in the heat but you're playing ball and you've got fans cheering when you make a catch and you turn around, get them hyped up, you get a little more energy," said former wide receiver Anthony Armstrong. "At the end of practice, I would always start signing at the furthest end and then just work my way down... I always loved interacting with fans because if you stay out here in 97–100-degree weather, you deserve to get an autograph or two."
And while the work put in on the field during this time is arguably the most important part of camp, bonding between teammates is among the most memorable.
"Training camp was also very fun," said former cornerback Josh Wilson. "Being in the hotel with all your teammates and trying to live together. It's kinda fun to get to know the guy you're gonna go to war with on Sundays and build up that relationship, and I still have friendships with those guys to this day."
Much in part to the sheer amount of time spent together (typically about 12 hours a day), friendships bloom during training camp.
"I don't think anybody ever liked anything about training camp, but I miss the camaraderie," said former fullback Mike Sellers. "The locker room talk, the banter we used to have and a lot of the friendships over the years."
The Washington Commanders continued Week 1 of training camp with fans in the stands and Kevin Durant in attendance. Check out the top photos from the day. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
The Washington Commanders finished their first week of training camp with thousands of fans packing the bleachers and areas surrounding the practice field. Here are the best photos from Saturday. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
With that growing comfort, along with perhaps a dose of delirium and a craving for fun, also comes a playfulness unique to training camp. Super Bowl champion Brian Mitchell cannot help but laugh thinking about the "best trick ever played" on him during his second year of camp.
"I was always a guy who tried to get out there quick and get back home before everybody," Mitchell said. "We always had a little bet on it. One day, I get to my car and J-Berg and Booger [equipment managers] had packed my car with packing peanuts -- everywhere, the trunk, the whole cockpit of the car. Full of them. So, I just moved all the packing peanuts off the seat. I got it out, I rolled down my window, and I took off, so I had packing peanuts all over Carlisle, Pennsylvania. They were coming out the window. I'm a guy who likes to play games on people, and all I could do is laugh because I had done all kinds of stuff to people, putting things in people's jocks and putting shaving cream on their head … But that was the best ever. They got me. They got me good."
One day the joy of training camp could be a harmless prank. The next it could be a smile on a kid's face from an autograph. Training camp is hard, and it pushes players to their limits, but it also delivers plenty of satisfaction and entertainment.