The rite of training camp and, more important, training camp stories, will soon be nothing more than clip-file memories of football's lost generation.
The Rams are spending only 13 days in the dormitories of Cal State Fullerton this year, marking the dawn of an era, in which the concept of communal living becomes as extinct as the drop-kick.
Most NFL teams have been clinging to the tradition for tradition's sake. "This is all kind of ritualistic," Coach John Robinson said. "It's like, 'We'll all go away for the weekend and we'll all get a lot closer.' Does a team become closer having gone through training camp?"
For the most part, training camp and its tedium of two-a-day practices has become anachronistic. There was a time, in the days when players enjoyed true off-seasons, that six weeks of intensive training were needed to bring a team together. But today's players work year-round. The Rams, for instance, extended mini-camp through the month of May.
The decision of the league's owners last spring to limit rosters to 80 players a team was but another dagger through the heart of training camp. Teams that once invited 100 or more players to camp now risk injuries to starters if they choose to practice twice daily.
"I think there's a point of diminishing returns," Robinson said. "We're out there twice, but we don't have any collisions at our practices. We don't go 100%.
"Thirty of the 80 (players) you coach, you're going to fire. Some of these teams that have 150, you really put in a lot of time on people who are not going to make it."
The Rams have signed a contract with UC Irvine to use its facilities next summer while construction begins on a new sports complex at the Fullerton campus.
It's not inconceivable that in two years, training camp will be held at Rams Park in Anaheim on a regular work schedule.
But what of the companionship lost with the abolishment of camp? The bonding of men? Perhaps the lack of training camp will only cut into valuable book material.
"Back when I was with the Raiders, for some of those guys training camp started at 9 p.m. and went till 4," Robinson said.
Football of the future promises that players will be home for dinner every night, like it or not.
Gaston Green, Buford McGee and Jerry Gray missed practice Wednesday to attend a memorial service for Stacey Toran, the Raider safety who was killed in an automobile accident Saturday night. . . . Coach John Robinson said he was hoping holdout tight end Damone Johnson would show up in the next few days, although he might have been speaking more from his heart than his head. Richard Ashe has a leg injury, so the team has practiced this week with one healthy tight end, free agent Gary Knudson.