Matt Bowen began his career as a sixth-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2000, and also played for the Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills. Bowen spent his final NFL season with the Bills in 2006, playing in five games. Before that, he graduated from the University of Iowa with his degree in journalism, and has written articles for the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Washington Times and Pro Football Weekly. Bowen received a master’s degree in writing and publishing from DePaul University, and is a member of the Pro Football Writers' Association. He currently writes for the National Football Post.
We're less than two weeks away from Bills training camp opening at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. I will be there for the majority of practices, covering the activities with the rest of the fans in attendance. Bowen recently answered a few of my questions via email about training camp.
You spent time in four different teams' training camps. How do the facilities at St. John Fisher College compare to the other facilities?
The facilities at St. John's are the best I have seen for an off-site training camp location. The locker rooms are top notch, the fields are in great shape and the ability to practice under the lights in front of the fans breaks the monotony of the everyday training camp blues. Great place, great fans and a great atmosphere.
What was your favorite part about training camp?
My favorite part about camp was the team building. You have to rely on each other for almost six weeks and the relationships you build carry over into the season. The great teams have great camps.
What was your least favorite part?
The toll it takes on your body. The amount of hitting you do as an individual over that time adds up, and although it is necessary to set your pads and prepare for the season, it isn't enjoyable to do it twice a day for a month. Brutal at times...
How much unstructured time is there in a typical training camp schedule? What do players do during that down time?
Free time at camp is always short and sweet. Most guys will use the time in between practice to sleep or at least get their feet up. When you do get a night off, you will see guys catch dinner in town, catch a movie or throw back a few beers. Those nights are gold in the middle of camp and you need that as a player to feel, well, like a normal person again.
With or without naming names, what's the craziest/stupidest/funniest thing you experienced while at training camp?
When I was a rookie in St. Louis, we practiced in Macomb, IL at Western Illinois University. We had community bathrooms on the floor, so in the middle of the night, you had to get out of bed, walk down the hall, etc... Players had these huge fridges in their rooms, and I went to grab what I thought would be a beer out of my buddy's fridge in his room only to see about 20 cups filled with urine. He was too lazy to use the bathroom down the hall. Obviously I have a ton of these stories, but as usual, many have to be kept in-house.
What else about your personal training camp experience would you like to share with Bills fans?
Training camp is a miserable experience, but it is so crucial to not only your success as a player, but that of the team. Finding a way to get through two-a-days in the second week of August is demanding and painful, but that is what makes you stand out as a player. And, there is nothing better than getting through August and getting in your car to head back home when camp closes.