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Ask a former NFL player: What was your first training camp practice like?

In this week’s mailbag, Geoff Schwartz recalls his first time in pads, reveals which OLs you should worry about, and says Patrick Mahomes is a unicorn.

Well, we have one game down, folks! After the Hall of Fame Game, there are now 332 of them left, including all the preseason and postseason games. I hope you read my gambling article this week as the Broncos got us the backdoor cover.

As usual, thank you for your participation in this mailbag. Remember you can always reach me on Twitter or Instagram. It wouldn’t work without y’all.

What was your first practice like in training camp?@StinkyMcNasty

I’ve probably discussed the difference in training camp practices between the old CBA and the new CBA a thousand times, but it’s appropriate here. Now, you get two basically OTA practices before you’re in pads — helmets only, no shoulder pads, and not much contact. Your third day is the first in pads. You get to ease into camp. It’s “easier” now.

Not so much back in 2008. We reported to camp the afternoon before our first practice. We had meetings, dinner, and more meetings before we went off to bed. The morning started early with a 6:30 a.m. wakeup call, then breakfast before a 9 a.m. FULL PADS practice!

Yes, we went full pads in the first practice. So, we got after it right away. I’m not sure I had a full panic attack, but my anxiety was through the roof. This was big-boy football with grown men trying to feed their families. It’s a different game, much different than when I was at Oregon.

There’s also a fear of the unknown, which I think is usual before a new job starting. There’s just so many unknowns before your first practice: How physical will it be? What is the practice schedule like? How many reps will I get? How long is practice? Dang it’s hot, how will I handle it?

I don’t remember my first practice but I do remember my first preseason game. It was the same, but maybe worse, because the lights were on. Yikes, man. It was tough. But I made it work.

What team’s OL worries you the most heading into the season? Texans? Cards? Seahawks?@therealestging

I’ll focus this answer on contending teams because the bad teams, well, they generally have bad offensive lines. Seattle’s offensive line is fine. Right tackle is a concern, but the rest of the line can get the job done, especially at left tackle with Duane Brown.

I think your concern about the Texans’ offensive line is warranted. They needed a fix at left tackle, so they drafted Tytus Howard out of Alabama State. He’s a project and if they get production from him this season, that’s a bonus. They drafted Max Scharping in the second round to address guard but again, we don’t quite know how he will play. Currently, the Texans are below average at LT, LG, and RT. Yikes. It might be another long season for Deshaun Watson.

The Browns’ offensive line might be the reason their offense isn’t what people expect it to be. Their tackles are up and down, plus they need to fill right guard with second-year player Austin Corbett, who struggled a bit last season.

I discussed the Rams’ offensive line a bit last week when I mentioned the team could take a step back this season. Replacing Rodger Saffold at left guard won’t be easy. They lost John Sullivan and replace him with second-year center Brian Allen from Michigan State, another unknown. Andrew Whitworth is showing his age just a bit at left tackle. So there are just a whole bunch of question marks in Los Angeles.

I think we all agree that we’ve never seen an NFL player throw balls across his body, on the run, from different angles so accurately and consistently as Patrick Mahomes. But we do see that from many MLB shortstops. Do you expect to see an influx of shortstops converted to QB, the way we regularly see soccer players converted to kickers and basketball players converted to TE? Or is Mahomes the only unicorn that can translate that skill to football?@thatonedude02

Great outside-the-box question. My answer is no, because Mahomes is that unicorn. If you’re a high school quarterback and you try to be Mahomes, you’d have no success. And if you have a special arm talent at shortstop, plus you can hit, you’re probably going to play baseball instead of football.