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Count Alex's Losses
08-01-2006, 01:56 PM
RIVER FALLS, WI – The first thing about Camp Herm Edwards was visible before the Chiefs ever set foot in their summer home here in the northwoods.

On the Delta charter flight to Minneapolis there were 24 seats in the first-class section of the 767-300 aircraft. There were another 289 seats behind the first-cabin, seven seats across in 47 rows.

Carl Peterson sat in seat 1C. As one of the most veteran of players, Trent Green was in 2D. Brian Waters enjoyed the spacious room in 4B.

Herm Edwards sat in seat 46B, at the very rear of the plane. The only thing behind him was the restroom and the tail.

“I like to be back there near the players,” Edwards said when asked about his selection of seating. “I came into the league at the back of the plane and that’s how I’m going to go out.”

Oh yes, things are different around the Chiefs as Edwards goes through his first training camp. That’s very visible in the short time the team has been on the ground here in the land of beer and cheese.

Take the players on the injured list. In some camps, that’s a license to enjoy the air-conditioned confines of the trainer’s room. Not in Camp Herm. Sometimes the injured guys work harder than the players actually going through practice. They ride stationary bikes. They run sprints. They do agility drills. They run sprints while dragging a little sled with weights on them. They jump over hurdles. They throw heavy medicine balls around and then run after them.

The other day, new defensive tackle Ron Edwards dropped onto all fours after another session with the workout guys and looked very close to losing his lunch. Edwards is coming off shoulder surgery and hasn’t been given the go ahead to practice. On this afternoon, he would have rather been on the field in full pads taking the pounding of practice than running another sprint.

“I told the players the other night that they don’t want to be on the injury report,” Edwards said with a smile. “You need to be available to make this team. You don’t make it on default.”

No matter the temperature outside, Edwards is always wearing a sweatshirt. So far it’s been white, or it’s been gray. Weather conditions have been hot and humid, with temps in the 90s, sometimes close to the century mark. Doesn’t matter: the head coach is wearing a sweatshirt.

“I did it in Tampa … people looked at me like I was crazy,” said Edwards. “I’ve got to get my mind right too. It helps me gauge the temperature of how hot it is. When I go through practice there are certain things I might cut back on. I’ve got to feel it. I’ve got to know what it’s like.”

During practice, Edwards roams the field just like he did when he was playing cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles. His head is on a swivel, as he scans the action on multiple fields, taking in information from numerous sources, processing that and then spitting back out instructions, warnings, coaching tips, slaps on the backs and kicks in the butt.

“I make it a point to have a conversation with five players a day,” Edwards said. “I’ll end up talking to many more, but I come on the field with five guys that I want to speak with.”

He’s constantly making mental notes on items he’ll address later. Sometimes he can’t wait that long, like during Saturday afternoon’s workout when he stopped the action and told his team they weren’t practicing up to the necessary standards. There was no screaming, no profanity. Just a steady, stern voice that left little doubt in the minds of his players that they had better make a mental adjustment if they wanted to get through this hot afternoon.

Some players are still getting used to living in camp under Herm Time. That means when stretching is scheduled to start at 3:45 p.m., there’s a very good chance it may begin two minutes earlier. If that doesn’t seem like much, then you haven’t seen players sprinting out of the field house trying to get into the already underway warm ups without being noticed.

But Edwards notices.

“The guys have really been pretty good so far,” said Edwards. “We have some guys still making the transition. They’ll come to understand.”

There’s also a tent on the sidelines of the three-field complex where the Chiefs practice. It’s closed in on three sides and inside there are three large units blowing chilled air. There’s also a shallow pool of cold water. Over the first days of camp, it’s been a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler inside that tent than outside.

It’s there for the players, should they need to cool off during or after practice. But not a single one has used it. Not a single one has even gone close to it. In fact, the players avoid it.

“We are all hot,” Edwards said. “Training camp is the great equalizer. Everybody has the same conditions to live with. It’s the same dorm, same food, same practice fields. No. 1 picks, rookie free agents, coaches, we are all living the life.”

The life of Camp Herm.