STEVENS POINT, Wis. (AP) _ Steve Beuerlein had been through the expansion draft. He endured the mini-camps. He flew to rural Wisconsin in the middle of summer.
Reality, though, didn’t hit until he walked out on the practice field bright and early Monday morning: football season had arrived.
``I know that Friday before I came up here on Saturday, it was almost like I didn’t want to believe camp was here,″ said Beuerlein, expected to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting quarterback. ``I got on the plane to get here, then we did the conditioning test (Sunday), but still I was not 100 percent sure I was at camp.″
Certainty arrived Monday when the expansion Jaguars officially launched the NFL season with their first training camp practice. Ninety players limbered up briefly, then lined up in groups along the chalk lines every five yards.
``What do ya say Jaguars?″ defensive back Vinnie Clark yelled to his teammates. ``First time!″
At the appointed time _ 8:40 a.m. precisely _ coach Tom Coughlin started clapping his hands and shouting, ``Let’s go, let’s go.″ And off they went to begin what certainly will be a painful learning experience; no NFL expansion team in modern times has won more than three games in its initial season.
A smattering of fans lined the fences around the two practice fields at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where the Jaguars will train for nearly five weeks before finishing up back in Jacksonville, Fla.
``When I got out on the field (Monday) morning, started getting in the drills, started going through the whole regular practice routine, I began to realize I was at training camp,″ Beuerlein said. ``We’ve got five more weeks of this.″
Coughlin proclaimed himself satisfied with the initial workout, a nearly two-hour session in helmets and shorts that was followed by another two-hour practice in the afternoon. The temperature rose into the mid-80s _ only slightly cooler than the 92 degrees Jacksonville hit Monday _ and the players seemed to have trouble with their footing after an overnight rain on the newly sodded field.
``We got some things done,″ said Coughlin, whose team won’t don full pads until Friday. ``The real thing we were looking for was to pick up on where we left off (in mini-camp) and it looks like we’re pretty close. We didn’t seem to have any problems with learning.″
Coughlin must not have talked to six-year NFL veteran Reggie Cobb, the projected starter at running back. Cobb thought he had a handle on the Jaguars’ offense after the final mini-camp, then the coaching staff gave him a whole new set of plays and formations to learn.
``I’m confused,″ he admitted. ``And I’m one of the older guys here. If I’m confused, I know some of the younger guys are. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of stuff to put in. Maybe we get a jump on things before Friday rolls around.″
Coughlin opened his camp a week earlier than any other NFL team, saying his collection of castoffs, rookies and a few tenured players needed the extra time to get ready for the July 29 exhibition opener against Carolina in the Hall of Fame game.
A hard-nosed protege of Bill Parcells, Coughlin also will use the time to leave little doubt he is firmly in control. His training camp schedule is a tightly structured series of meetings, practices and rules, rules, rules.
For some players, it’s definitely an adjustment. Beuerlein may be an NFL veteran, but he had to rise from bed an hour early Monday to redo his 300-yard ``gassers″ since he didn’t run fast enough the previous day.
``It’s tough,″ he said. ``I definitely don’t feel like an eight-year veteran right now.″