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Does Training Camp Start Date Really Matter?

Rookies reported as the Cleveland Browns began their NFL training camp Friday, the first team to do so. The Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers will all hold their initial practices this weekend.

Our New York Giants? They don't hold their first workout at UAlbany until Aug. 1, more than a week from now. For the second consecutive season that will make the Giants the final NFL team to begin training camp. Why the disparity? Also, does this put the Giants at a competitive disadvantage heading into the Sept. 12 season-opener against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers, by the way, open camp of July 28.

NFL rules prohibit teams from starting training camp until 15 days prior to a team's first exhibition game. The Giants don't open their exhibition season until Aug. 16 against the New York Jets. For the Jets, incidentally, rookies report on July 29 and veterans report on Aug. 1, thus technically making both New York teams the last ones to get started.

I actually went to Pat Traina of Inside Football for a full explanation of the rules. Here is what she told me.

The rule, as I understand it is that teams can't open their training camp for veterans more than 15 days prior to the first pre-season game. They can open camp up to seven days prior to the veteran reporting date for rookies and first-year players -- this is what the Jets are doing. Many teams have their rookies come in a week early and then the veterans report; however because the Giants keep their rookies for an extra week after OTAs and mini camps, they haven't had the rookies report early in years.

For the Browns, veterans do not actually report until July 30. Cleveland will hold 20 full-squad training camp practices before breaking camp on Aug. 19. The Giants, with both rookies and veterans reporting Aug. 1, actually have 23 practices scheduled before breaking camp on Aug. 20. The Panthers have 24 practices on their camp calendar, not a big difference from the Giants calendar despite a different starting day.

Remember that the Giants started the season 5-0 in 2009 despite being the last team to report, and despite playing two pre-season games four days less than a week apart, screwing up an entire week of pre-season practice.

So, is there a conclusion that can be drawn? Not really, except that it's tough to keep waiting for the Giants to get going when it seems like everyone else has a head start.