Boot Camp Arrivals Should Be Grateful –

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Buc players who complain about the rigors of training camp need to take a step back by talking to Ricky Reynolds.

It was 35 years ago when Reynolds, a second-round pick from Washington State, reported to Camp Perkins at the University of Tampa. During his three years in Pullman, Wash., Reynolds was used to practicing in an area where the average August high is 84, with morning lows in the 50s.

Former Bucs cornerback Ricky Reynolds, who had 17 interceptions before moving to Bill Parcells’ Patriots.

Ray Perkins, who played for Bear Bryant in Alabama, was entering his first season as Tampa Bay coach. Despite the scorching heat, he worked long and hard at Buc’s players, often until exhaustion.

“It was a huge shock because all I heard from some of the former Washington State players was how much more laid back it is in the NFL,” Reynolds said. “They told me training camp was OK, a lot of days with just helmets and jerseys. I didn’t get any of that.

“We had 3 practices a day and we were out there killing each other. When we went to 7v7, it turned into a scrum. It was crazy – something I was definitely not prepared for. We were at UT, so let’s talk about the facilities. You come out of college, thinking you’re going to get better by going to the NFL, but it was a step up from going to Tampa.

You could feel Reynolds grimacing on the phone as he described a typical day in the summer of 1987.

“They’re knocking on your door maybe at 6 a.m., trying to wake everyone up for an 8-10 practice,” he says. “You get dressed, go to the dining room and have your breakfast. Then you’re going to get your ankles bandaged, get dressed, and try to stretch. You go through full pads in the morning, then go in and cool down a bit, remove the pads and I believe we came out with just helmets and shoulder pads for the next practice. We did an hour of mostly special teams.

“Then you come in, take a shower and go to lunch and maybe take a nap. The third training took place at the end of the afternoon. The sun is beating down on you and most of this training was all about overtaking, half-hull training. It could have been 90 minutes or two hours. There was water available, but there was definitely no shade, no fans blowing on you or a tent to cool off. You just cook and go through it.

Bad weather offered little relief.

“You train in the rain unless there’s lightning,” he says. “There were times when we went to the basketball gymnasium for a guided tour. One day, Coach Perkins turned us upside down on the basketball court. We had to run 40-yard sprints about 40 times.

“That’s what you call Camp Cupcake, Kyle.”

What about those lavish accommodations?

“We were in dorms, two per dorm,” Reynolds explains. “The dorm smelt of mold and they weren’t in great shape. I want to say that maybe fourth year we maybe didn’t have the 3 days a day. He kind of backed off a bit.

Those Bucs weren’t very talented, so Perkins looked for an edge by striving to be the best-conditioned team in the NFL.

“That was his goal, to be fully fit and ready for the start of the season,” Reynolds said. “I admit we were ready to go, but we would also be down, with a lot of guys injured. To be honest, it was sometimes easier to play in the game than to train. Buc’s players from today have no idea how bad they have it. You literally felt like a zombie after the nap. It was like you were sleepwalking, you were so exhausted. Your body was just gone.

The players were frustrated, but Perkins had a way of stifling dissent.

“I think there were a few guys who tried to talk to him,” Reynolds says, “but early on he got rid of a lot of veterans. If you came to complain, he wouldn’t hesitate.

When Perkins was let go at the end of the 1990 season, there was hope for a more lenient training camp if interim Richard Williamson got the permanent job.

“Everyone thought Coach Williamson would turn things around, so everyone lobbied for him,” Reynolds said. “But he came in and sounded like Ray Perkins.”

All these years later, Reynolds has deep respect for Buc’s teammates who persevered.

“You start thinking about what you’ve been through and what it took to resist those practices and get through the season,” he says. “I remember being in great shape, playing well at the start and then guys were going down with tight muscles. I will never forget him. Guys would crumble because their bodies were just worn out.

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