“Hey Andy, you got my phone number, right?”
“Oh I’ve got it, but I’m not going to use it,” Studebaker jokes back.
Pack-up day is always a bit awkward. It’s often bittersweet and, really, somewhat similar to the last day of elementary school.
Back then, summer came along and many things could change before the next school year began.
In today’s NFL, life isn’t that much different. The circumstances may have changed, but at the end of the day, your locker partner may not be there when classes resume. Schedules change, people transfer and new instructors often come into play.
This year, nobody is exactly sure when they’ll see each other again. Not even the players who are all but assured an enrollment slot when workouts resume.
Guys like Studebaker, who signed a contract extension during the regular season, used to know that offseason strength and conditioning programs began on day-x. With the NFL’s labor situation in question, it’s possible that day-x turns into day-y or day-z.
Until then, everybody is on their own.
“That’s obviously something that we don’t know much about yet,” Studebaker says. “That’s up in the air. Some things need to get figured out on both sides. I get to be a little bit a part of that, but there’s going to be some interesting stuff going on.
“There is obviously a business side to the NFL and it’s not just about games on Sunday. I’m hoping that gets done and that both sides can find something that works for each of them.”
Unusual questions even surround those identified as “core” players.
In addition, there are the free agents. Specifically, the free agents who want to come back, but are currently without contract offers.
“Me, I don’t know my future,” says Smith. “It’s always weird being a free agent. I don’t know if I’m coming back. You see guys that have signed and they’ve locked those guys up. You may be a guy that’s on the border line and they may want you back, but you don’t know what’s happening (with the CBA). So you never know.”
It’s an odd situation for Smith as he loads his belongings into a black plastic garbage bag. He’s enjoyed his time with teammates and hopes to join them when OTAs are scheduled to begin in the spring. He wants to unpack that garbage bag again in a few months and place the personal items back into the locker he’s leaving.
Of course, Smith could also find himself in another city preparing to face off against many of the players he’s currently leaving.
“I love it here,” Smith says. “I love the city, I love the fans and we played good football here. The fans love me and I love them. This is a football town and I’m happy here. I wouldn’t mind retiring here and finishing up my career here. I’d love to play another four or five years here and then call it quits. That sounds pretty cool.”
Pack-up day is a new experience for the Chiefs rookie class as well.
There was no such thing in college life. Lockers stayed stocked throughout winter and summer breaks, often times never going without constant use.
The majority of players rarely went home to train. Teammates were literally a year-round family.
“You see us packing our bags around here, it ends quickly,” rookie
For months, those inside the Chiefs locker room all but lived together. They rode the ups and downs of the season with one another, hosted dinners, trained side-by-side and won and lost games together.
After pack-up day, some players may never see, nor hear, from one another again.
“It feels a little bit weird,” says Studebaker. “We’ve been playing football, getting up early, going to practice and having a routine here since July 29th. I think that’s when we first ran our conditioning test. Every day since July 29th we’ve been in a routine and this is a change in routine, so that’s always a bit weird.”
Classes may resume again in 10 weeks. It could be longer.
Until it’s decided, everybody goes about a different routine.
“I’ll see my little girl, pick her up from school and its back to being a dad,” says Smith.