The first official day of the 2002 training camp campaign Wednesday seemed to carry the same goal-oriented theme of growth and improvement displayed just the day before at the annual Stockholders' Meeting.
A confident and informative preview of the 2002 season delivered by GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman to 2,211 eager stockholders at Brown County Arena Tuesday was an appropriate preview to the excitement rippling through Clarke Hinkle Field.
The enthusiasm extended to the 'Oneida Street Faithfuls,' the 'Railbirds,' the fans who loyally park their lawn chairs and fill the bleachers lining the fences to take in the scene of over 30 rookies and first-year players settling into the daunting physical conditioning routine that faces them during training camp.
Wednesday, the players, clad in shorts and helmets, filled up the majority of practice time running through position drills with their appropriate coaches. With the first two-a-days starting Thursday and the first full-team practice scheduled for Saturday, this small, but important window allows rookies to become accustomed to the heavy workout schedule and the capacity of plays to be memorized.
Assistant defensive backs coach Lionel Washington guided rookie cornerbacks Seneca McMillan out of Nicholls State and Erwin Swiney out of Nebraska, as well as first-year Hurley Tarver out of Oklahoma State, in individual drills to improve receiver coverage.
Just to the left, tight end Bill Seymour, a rookie out of Michigan, got one-on-one coaching on 'shotgun' starts from both tight ends coach Jeff Jagodzinski and Barry Rubin, head of strength and conditioning.
Rookie wide receiver and first round draft pick Javon Walker out of Florida State was the main attraction for both fans and media, and proceeded to impress the crowd in a receiver drill in the north end of the field. Wide receivers coach Ray Sherman stood at the top of the drill, critiquing every move.
A rep late in practice drew some animation from Sherman, when the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Walker managed to escape the efforts of both Swiney and McMillan. The former Seminole broke loose from the double-coverage just in time to grab a pass on the right sideline from rookie quarterback Marcus Brady out of Cal State Northridge and sprint by a pleased Sherman.
Walker said he appreciated being a regular target during practice.
"A lot of the receivers are not here, there's just two of us, so the reps and the conditioning was good because it's going to pay off when Saturday comes and we put on the pads," Walker said. "I'm just looking forward to it, so I'm kind of glad it happened that way . . .
"I just want to come out and make plays when I have the chance to. It's always been a tradition of mine that when your number is called try to make the play because you never know when your name is going to be called again. So each rep, each play I try to make the best of it."
Practice will be open to the public Thursday, in the morning at 10:30 - 11:45 and also in the afternoon from 2:30 - 3:45 on Clarke Hinkle Field, weather permitting.
-- By Sarah Sherman