Napa is a getaway for many people. For regular folks, it’s to relax and maybe take in some sights and taste some of their world famous wines. For the Raiders, it’s about getting away and focusing on the task at hand — preparing for the next football season.
Napa isn’t a desolate place. But it is remote enough that most of these players are not within a convenient distance of their homes or the team facility. It’s like camping. Hence why it’s called training camp.
The players bond as roommates and practice mates spending most of their day between the practice field, the weight room, the meeting rooms, and their hotel rooms. All of which are within a few yards.
These players will not be able to move even a few inches this time without a camera in their face. And everything they say and do can be aired on HBO in a couple weeks. So much for getting away from distractions.
“We’re on the record as saying the Oakland Raiders did not invite the Hard Knocks cameras in,” said Mike Mayock at his training camp introductory press conference.
Mayock as well as Jon Gruden spent at least the past decade talking into cameras — Gruden for ESPN and Mayock for NFL Network. Mayock says he “grew up in the NFL Films building basically.” They’re no stranger to it. But that doesn’t mean that’s how they want to prepare their football team.
“Bottom line for me, Jon and I are kind of old school and the reason to go away to training camp is to get away from all the distractions. Get together, bond, learn your assignments, no distractions, no intrusions. Hard Knocks is an intrusion, but it was handed to us, so it’s up to us to deal with it. And I think we’re really dealing with it in a professional way. Tim Rumpff, their NFL Films Director has really done a great job, we’ve been in constant communication every single day. I think we’ve come up with a plan where they feel like they can get what they need and we feel like we can get done what we need. And so far it’s been great.”
This is my tenth year covering Raiders training camp. Each year for ten years, the day has essentially started with a small window in which filming and photography are allowed. Usually that’s about a half hour — though sometimes shorter — and during that time the team does warmups and some individual drills. And, of course, you can film interviews as well. But that’s it. Now the cameras will never turn off.
One thing about players you come to find as well is they act a lot differently when you’re talking to them just one-on-one and when they have a camera in their face. It’s ironic that with the cameras, we may actually get less access. At least in terms of the players opening up. They tend to stick to talking points and safe statements when the cameras are rolling. With few exceptions, they don’t feel like they can relax and be themselves.
Camp may not be a time for relaxation from a preparation standpoint, but it should be free from worries about anything non-football related. Like how their words or actions could be misconstrued or sensationalized by editors for a reality TV show. But that’s the Raiders’ reality as they embark on their 2019 training camp.