SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- "You don't have to pack much of anything," longtime Panthers employee and training camp veteran David Monroe told me. "The Panthers will take care of you."
On both points, David spoke the truth. The staff locker room en toto could give the Panthers Team Store a run for its money, with the amount of gear in my locker rivaling my admittedly paltry closet at home (During camp, you don't even need your own unmentionables).
So David was indeed correct when he claimed that you didn't have to pack much of anything for the three-week camp.
That's when he broke out the box.
David didn't have to bring much stuff, but he did. Out came his Rolodex and a pencil can (two things I'm yet to get for my permanent office in Charlotte), a mouse pad and a coaster, scissors and even a stapler.
He also brought a touching reminder of home – pictures of his two sons that sit in a window overlooking Gibbs Stadium in our makeshift office in the press box.
His table looked like a fully functional office. Mine? A laptop. Nothing else. Didn't even remember to bring my mouse.
Then, David took it to another level. After a trip to Spartanburg's ever-popular Wal-Mart (you ever been to a deserted one?) to buy a TV dinner table, he soon used it to create his vision of the quintessential "coffee table": a Keurig one-cup coffee machine, four varieties of coffee, cups, straws and sugar.
Now he really had something brewing.
This is the 11th training camp for Mr. Monroe, who's been on the Panthers payroll longer than kicker John Kasay, the one remaining original Panther.
Clearly, he knows the deal. I, on the other hand, am learning on the fly.
It isn't training camp just for the players.
First off, I've had to adjust to dorm life. I have experience with the cramped confines of on-campus housing, but I was a college sophomore the last time I experienced it – which was around the time current college sophomores were born.
Do you remember closing the door at your dorm for the last time, taking one final look at the suddenly empty room before moving onto the next stage in life? Now, imagine opening that door again – and living in that room, as is.
The rooms are nice enough to be sure, even sporting a nice privacy feature I hadn't seen in a dorm before – a tiny bedroom for each roommate, in addition to the common area.
Given my light packing, however – it's for three weeks, not a semester – the room basically features lots of empty space, with bright bulbs beaming bright white light off the cinderblock walls.
The thing the room is missing the most? My wife and son.
All that said, however, we're not spending much time at all in the rooms. Training camp is constantly in motion, beginning with an air-horn salute to start the day, followed by practice, interviews, writing, practice, interviews, writing, then sleep.
Slowly but surely, however, with David always at my side (even when he'd rather not be), I'm getting the hang of it. And by the time camp closes on Aug. 18 and I close the door on my dorm room for the final time, I'll have much more packed for the trip home than I brought with me: a more intimate knowledge of the Panthers team, not to mention more intimate relationships with the quality people that make up the Panthers organization.
I'll also know a little bit more about what to pack come 2011 training camp.
MONDAY NIGHT MOVIES: Fans who attend Monday's evening practice are encouraged to stick around for a free screening of the football movie "Radio."
The movie, which will be projected onto a 35-foot screen, is scheduled to begin at approximately 8:30 p.m. In the short interim between the end of practice and the beginning of the movie, James "Radio" Kennedy -- the inspiration for the film -- and his coach at Hanna High School, Harold Jones, will meet and greet fans.
The Panthers are scheduled to start the day with a 9 a.m. practice, then come back for another one at 6:30 p.m. Both are open to the public and free of charge. Popcorn, candy and drinks will be available for purchase during the movie.