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'Premiere' Event Trumps NFL Mini-Camp

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Mini-Camps are a time for teams to get together as a group for the first time, rookies and vets alike. These camps are scheduled at the descretion of the team, and viewed as an important first step in the development of a team during the off-season.

Below is the full schedule --



The Broncos, historically, have held their mini-camps late in the off-season, close to the start of full-fledged training camp. Shanny's explanation for the late mini-camp is simple. It keeps the guys fresh, and makes sure there is never a ton of down time for the players. It all makes sense.

There is another reason, and based on two teams experience having their mini-camps this coming weekend it appears Shanny is on the right track. Two incoming rookies, Green Bay's Brandon Jackson and Indy's Anthony Gonzalez are currently entangled in a situation that could be described in one word as ridiculous. Both want to attend their first mini-camps with their new teams, but the NFL is saying they cannot, forcing them to instead attend a PR event in Los Angeles.

The event, called the Premier event, pays top-selected skill players $12,000 to hang out for the weekend, get pictures taken for sports cards, contend for endorsement opportunities and get some much needed TV exposure. All this, to the NFL and NFLPA is more important than lining up with your perspective teammates for the first time, proving your worth to them.

For Jackson, it is especially troubling since the rookie from Nebraska is trying to win the starting running back job for the Packers.

"I'm being held out against my will," Jackson said Thursday. "I was told I either have to go home and do nothing or go to Los Angeles. They are locking me out against my will."

Jackson isn't the only one being forced to go to Cali instead of team workouts. Anthony Gonzalez, the newest Indianapolis Colt's receiver, is also being forced to accept the "invitation" prompting a reaction form Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy to use his new found fame as a Super Bowl winning Head Coach as a tool to become more outspoken on matters, both in and out of football.

"I'm a little concerned about it," said Dungy before a Friday afternoon practice. "We talk about team play and we talk about doing things as a group . . . and then we take 35 guys and treat them a little special."

I agree, and while the League says it gave fair warning to all 32 teams about the dates for the Premier event, it seems a bit mis-lead to me that the NFL would put the emphasis of it's most highly-touted rookies, players that have a real opportunity to play and make an impact, on a photo-shoot instead of the football field. On second thought, does anything like that really surprise us?

Both Jackson and Gonzalez are eager to get to their teams, eager to prove to coaches and teammates alike that they are one of the guys, that the team didn't make a poor decision. Most importantly, both players don't want to start to fall behind, especially on teams with complex offenses. For Jackson, he was at least able to get some work in during the Packers' Rookie Camp right after the draft.

The situation for Gonzalez is compounded by NFL rules disallowing players from practicing until their class sessions are over for the year. Ohio State, working on quarters, is just finishing up this week, prohibiting Gonzalez from doing any work with the Colts to date.

Perhaps we'll see more and more teams follow the Broncos approach, moving their mini-camps out of May all together.

"You better believe our schedule will change next year," Tony Dungy said.

Another example of how Mike Shanahan is a bit ahead of the curve.