Training tables have something for everyone


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Welcome. Grab a tray and some silverware.

Over here you'll find four small barges full of pasta with tomato sauce. All you can eat. Parmesan cheese is on the table there.

Outside those doors, if you're in the mood for meat, we have steaks sizzling on an open barbecue. Now you know what happened to that herd in "City Slickers."

Over there, next to the salad bar, are baked potatoes and vegetables. We also have fried shrimp. There's tons left.

Bread? Name your favorite -- white, wheat, rye, rolls. Cold cuts, too, with pickles, onions, etc.

And for dessert, ice cream sandwiches, Eskimo pies, cones and bars, plus pies and brownies and frozen yogurt. Yes, we even have fresh fruit for those of you watching your figure.

Help yourself to seconds, thirds, fourths or fifths, if you dare. Because in about two hours, you'll be back in 80-degree heat and full pads, smashing into the guy across from you and working up another appetite.

The menu above isn't a special occasion. There's no wedding, bar mitzvah, graduation party or Boy Scout jamboree.

This is a typical meal at an NFL training camp.


"You worry about guys dropping weight," said Jim Anderson, the Rams' trainer who devised the game plan for the chefs at the club's training camp at UC Irvine. "You're working out twice a day, you're gonna be burning off a lot of calories."

Indeed, while the Rams and their crosstown rivals, the Raiders (whose training table is in the Radisson Hotel in Oxnard) seem to operate knives and forks as skillfully as they block and tackle, they do work out a tad more than most of us.

The typical day is breakfast in the morning, followed by %o meetings, then a furious two-hour practice, then lunch, then more meetings, then another furious two-hour practice, then dinner.

Pig out. Work out. Pig out. Work out. Pig out.

"We only have a couple of hours between now [lunch] and the next practice," said Rams defensive lineman Bill Goldberg while gnawing on a chocolate ice cream cone. "So you can't eat a lot of food. I don't like to feel heavy in practice."

His attitude seems to be typical of most. Fans probably envision the typical NFL eater as John Belushi in "Animal House" -- a Blutarsky-type on a cafeteria-style feeding frenzy whose idea of the four food groups is burgers, tacos, beer and munchies. But pro football players, for the most part, are too worn out to eat big.

"The main thing for me is fluids," said Rams running back Robert Delpino. "I come in here and I want to drink everything instead of eat."

But, of course, they find time to do both.

"I'm a dessert lover," said Rams running back Cleveland Gary. "I like apple pie and ice cream. I'd be the wrong nutrition fella because I like my mom's home cookin'. Black-eyed peas and collard greens."

While the Rams chow down, they are observed from afar by the folks who try to please them -- the UC Irvine food services personnel. Christopher Martin worked with Anderson on drawing the team's options.

"They don't really consume more than the average person," Martin said. "They have healthy appetites, but not what you would assume."

Some of Martin's observations:

* Jim Everett wanted real yogurt, so they went out and got it. Now it's at every meal.

* They put out six apple pies for the Rams at dinner, but the 80 players plus coaches and team personnel never clean out the supply.

* Turkey is very popular.

* Coaches favor ice cream, players like the frozen yogurt (with various gooey toppings).

* Never, ever will you find leftovers at a meal.

John Herrera, a Raiders executive, helped design his club's meal deal. "It's evolved to the point where we want to provide them with a healthy variety," he said. "Otherwise, you force them to go out and pig out on pizzas and burgers."

When the Raiders first moved their training camp to the Radisson in 1987, the menu was too fancy.

"They tried to be very gourmet when they opened this up," Herrera said. "We told them, no. No continental cuisine. Just good old American meat and potatoes."

A few years ago, Raiders coaches found a bunch of overweight players in camp. The training camp menu took on a Richard Simmons theme. Herrera said the team's menu consisted of mostly low-calorie dishes.

In coach lingo, it's all out there for the taking. It depends on how hungry you are and how much you want it.

Marcus Dupree restrains himself. He had a five-year layoff after a severe knee injury, during which he ate himself large. Making a comeback with the Rams, he shed 55 pounds. At his first NFL training camp, he said, he has little trouble keeping it off, despite the temptations.

"I know to stay away from fried foods," he said. "I seldom eat ice cream."

Goldberg has trouble. He says he's very health-conscious during the off-season. But when training camp begins . . .

"You come in here and you have all this fat bacon and eggs," he said, referring specifically to breakfast. "It's hard."

Rams second-year safety Pat Terrell once played on a national championship team at Notre Dame, but he had cellar-dweller eating habits. Then a buddy turned him on to a strict nutritional program. Now fast-food and red meat are non grata in his lifestyle, and he's a notch below cyborg.

"Sometimes, if you see some ribs there, it doesn't hurt," he said. "But when you train yourself to eat right, then sneak off to a fast-food restaurant, it doesn't taste as good anymore. Now if I eat something that I used to be able to chow down, like a greasy burger, it affects me like it never affected me before."

Terrell then turned a disapproving eye at some of his compadres: "Some of the guys don't have real good eating habits. And it shows. If it doesn't show in their performance, it shows in how they feel after practice."

Of course, after all the practices and meals, there's always the midnight snacks. The health-conscious Delpino described his with a grin: "An orange slice, an apple . . . maybe some chips."

?3 Oh well, he can always burn it off in practice.

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