All 32 teams have opened training camps for the 2010 NFL season. Excitement is running high as we inch closer to opening day. I, myself, am gathering my gear and heading north to Santa Clara, CA where I will spend next week at San Francisco 49ers camp. Ironically what affords me the opportunity to get away for so long is my teenagers’ simultaneous attendance at summer camp in the local mountains. Year after year, I find myself stymied by the word “camp.”

The word “camp” definitionally refers to temporary housing where people are gathered for an extended stay. The actual definition brings to my mind internment camps used in times of war and more accurately reflects NFL camps. Sure my children will also get sweaty, dirty, and smelly running around chasing one-another. However, the reason will be vastly different from NFL two-a-days. The closest comparison between kids camp and NFL camp is… well there aren’t any.

NFL training camps resemble internment camps in several ways: 1) the residents of both camps overwhelmingly do not want to be there, 2) the residents of both camps work against their free will, 3) they have little control over how they spend their time or where, when, and what they eat, 4) they endure physical pain few of us can imagine, 5) they are angrily yelled at, 6) they all look forward to the day that camp is closed, 7) the thought of returning to camp at a future date is unpleasant. Is it really any wonder why a certain 40 year old player who wears number four goes to ridiculous extremes to avoid camp?

NFL training camps are anything but fun and games. Just ask Washington Redskins, Albert Haynesworth or, for different reasons entirely, any of the now injured Denver Broncos running backs — none of whom are happy campers. The only happy campers at NFL camps are we journalists who are “working” covering their favorite sport, getting close to players, all the while drinking complimentary cold beverages. For players, NFL camps are a ton of hard work. The regimen is: meetings, practice, film study, weight training, conditioning, equipment room adjustments, and then repeat a few hours after lunch. Do this for nearly 30 days and campers can become a little cranky.

The players grow weary of the monotony of camp, the relentless routine, the pain, beating on teammates for weeks on end. Though campers are supposed to play together nicely, that is easier said than done. The inherent tension of only playing one side of the ball (offense or defense) in the NFL means that while at camp, the only people to play against are your own teammates. While players root hard for each other during the season both sides generally believe their side is superior — requiring more skill, intelligence, athleticism, and strength. In camp this slowly boils.

There exists a silent work ethic in the NFL which dictates the delicate balance of aggression players should practice with. Add to the above, position battles taking place, rookies and free-agents struggling to impress new coaches, veterans just wanting to get their work in, and tensions can overflow. When that threshold is breached it can become explosive. This frequently results in small fights breaking out at camp. Coaches thrust themselves between giant men who have had enough and want to take their frustrations out on the offending party.

And in all this do not forget the lowly journalist. We do our best to stay in shape (the shape of a pear) and hydrate as we roam practice fields in shorts and a polo shirt. Sun screen is imperative as we walk back and forth, schlepping portable digital recorders and cameras. Arms grow weary holding up a microphone for interviews. Sitting in uncomfortable folding chairs at press conferences, trying to think of a clever question instead of one which will receive a stern glare of “are you kidding me” is its own kind of pain. Remember me as I fight my way through other pear-shaped journalists trying to get the story for you, the loyal reader.

In all honesty we are probably the only ones who actually feel like we are at camp. I can’t wait till Sunday!