SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When first-year Panthers tight end Ed Dickson first set foot Saturday morning in his home for the next two-a-half weeks, it was like taking a step back in time.
"I look at the small little dorms, and it makes me feel like I'm back in college," said Dickson, who didn't do the dorm thing his first four years in the league as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. "It will build team camaraderie, getting away from the city and coming together here. I like it."
Whether they're embracing the environment or already pining for the comforts of home, players began setting up shop at Wofford College on Saturday. Like Dickson, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery is visiting Wofford for the first time, but it's far from his first rodeo.
"This is number 11 for me," said Cotchery, who spent the last three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers after seven seasons with the New York Jets. "I just try to keep the same routine, just the dorm room feel like home as much as possible. The preparation is the same – knowing that training camp is a marathon, not a sprint – so I just make sure I've got all the bases covered."
Cotchery brought a comforter and a rug for the floor with him, a simple approach compared to some. Rookie guard Trai Turner didn't pack extravagantly, but he did carry a laundry list of items with him.
"A soft pillow. A nice comforter. Maybe a pillowtop for your mattress. Some snacks," Turner said. "Sunflower seeds. Beef jerky. Fruit snacks. A lot of water and Gatorade – the essentials for camp."
One thing that Turner didn't bring was a Segway, a popular mode of transportation around the hilly campus that quarterback Cam Newton, defensive end Charles Johnson and running back DeAngelo Williams all sported Saturday.
"Nah," Turner said. "I'm using these two legs."
Second-year linebacker A.J. Klein said he might go the Segway route someday, but for now he's keeping it simple – much more simple.
"I know some people bring big TVs and gaming systems, but I have nothing," Klein said. "I have a book. That's about it. Pretty exciting.
"My essential thing is a pillow. The dorm mattresses aren't the best, so a good pillow is essential. I forgot last year. That was bad. I rolled up my sweatshirt at night as a pillow; that was better than using the one they gave me."
While several players fielded questions about what they brought to camp, Turner offered up what he hoped to tote back to Charlotte with him.
At the end of the day, it's much more important than what the players packed.
"I want to come away from this having learned everything that I can learn," Turner said. "I've got some good veterans around me, and we have a great defense to go against. I want to get better day in and day out. I'm going to put a lot of hard work in, and hopefully I'll reap the benefits."