It’s finally here!!!!! That’s right the first NFL Training Camp begins this Friday with the Cleveland Browns. Come on, admit it you know you’re excited. With that being said I think it’s time to break down what teams have the best camps for fans, and I’m not just talking about what takes place on the field.
The best camps for fans are the ones that are family friendly environments. The fathers and older sons only care about the football, but what if you have a kid who’s eight? What if you’re already on a family vacation conveniently planned at the same time and place as your favorite teams’ camp?
In those cases you need something that’s going to appeal to the whole family, or at least have attractions nearby for them.
So here’s what I’m going to do, I’m ranking the Top 10 NFL Training Camps for Fans. These are places that have a good mix of football, family fun and tradition. I will of course give more weight to the football.
#10 – Indianapolis Colts
First practices is scheduled for August 2nd @ Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
The highlight of Colts training camp isn’t Peyton Manning, its Colts City. Colts City is an interactive area but not just for the kids!!! It’s for all ages!
Colts City includes all the typical inflatable toys like the Quarterback Throw, Football Bouncer and Mountain Slide. They’ve also got a rock climbing wall. Most importantly they’ve got the Colts cheerleaders and that’s what the non-kids will be looking forward to.
#9 – Dallas Cowboys
First practice is scheduled for July 29th at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
In my eyes there isn’t anything really special about the Cowboys training camp but it is “America’s Team” so you know they have to do something special to get attention. How do they do that? They have a special kickoff concert the night before the first practice.
On Tuesday, July 28th they’ve got a concert by Intocable and the Randy Rogers Band. Couple country bands that obviously only the Cowboys fans would care about. But regardless its Jerry Jones and he’s got to do something big.
In my opinion the two best things about Cowboys practice is that it’s indoors (perfect for summer weather in Texas) and the Cowboys Cheerleaders! Those girls alone would be enough to get me to show up.
#8 – New York Jets
First practice is scheduled for Friday, July 31 @ SUNY Cortland.
The first thing that stands out about Jets training camp is the locations. That’s right locations. They take the show on the road and practice at three different locations over the month. The main location is SUNY Cortland located in Central NY but they also have a couple practices at their former home of Hofstra University, located in Long Island. Starting in late August they move camp to their normal training facilities at Florham Park in New Jersey.
Another thing that stands out to me is the inclusion of sports talk radio to their practices. Most teams let their local station broadcast from camp, but the Jets actually advertise this on their website that ESPN NY will be there on select dates. And we all know how important sports talk radio is to the New York fan, so yea its something they should promote.
The Jets also have the usual things you’ll see at most camps in the league, i.e. Blood Drive, Kids Zones, etc. The Jets label their kid zone “Generation Jets Fest” which includes a theme park, rides for the kids, skill challenges and special autograph sections.
#7 – Cleveland Browns
First practice is scheduled for July 24th at Berea, Ohio
The Browns practices are exactly what you would expect, loud and rowdy. What do you expect from the Dawg Pound right? You’ll get a lot of barking and yelling, with even more barking if there is a big hit or huge play.
The family friendly aspect comes in when you consider the teams annual Family Night and the local attractions. Downtown Cleveland is only about 20 miles away where there is no shortage of things for the family to do.
#6 – Kansas City Chiefs
First practice is scheduled for August 1st at the University of Wisconsin
Chiefs camp is one held a good ways from their home but still filled with plenty of its local fans. It’s the Midwest so you know those KC fans will travel and best part? You know they’ll be bringing that damn good barbeque with them.
Unfortunately the Chiefs don’t have daily activities for the kids thou, but they do have two days set aside August 5th and 12th where there will be kid fun zones set up, included discounted concessions. August 1st is also a Punt, Pass, Kick competition. The highlight of their camp like most others is Family Fun Night scheduled for August 8th, which is also the one day families will have to pay for entry.
#5 – Minnesota Vikings
First practice is scheduled for July 31st at Minnesota State University
The Vikings really reach out to their fans during training camp. After their first practice on July 31st they hold a team introduction event where the players and coaching staff, well introduce themselves and also toss autographed footballs to the crowd.
On August 7th the team holds a night practice that’s followed by fireworks, always a huge draw. Then just a few days later, August 12th they hold Fan Appreciation Day where the Vikings Cheerleaders roam the crowds giving out prizes.
Want even more? They have the Kids Zone open daily. They also have a cheerleading clinic, the punt, pass, and kick competition AND three Gatorade Jr Training Camps. That’s a pretty stacked camp for the families there.
#4 – Atlanta Falcons
First practice is scheduled for August 1st in Flowery Branch, GA
The Falcons have all your typical family friendly activities but there are two specific weekends that really impressed me and had them jump to near top of the list.
Youth Weekend – August 1st and 2nd – This event includes autograph sessions with the Falcons cheerleaders (teenage boys are going to love that) and opportunity to try on authentic equipment used by the Falcons players. There are tons of giveaways to including autographed memorabilia and tickets to the home opener against the Miami Dolphins.
All-State All-Access Weekend – August 7th and 8th – On Saturday the 8th, the team hosts “Rome the Dome” at the Georgia Dome which features a mock game. It’s not much different then your usual family night scrimmage but nice that they bring it to the home of the Falcons. What really got my attention is what happens on the Friday night before.
The Falcons take it old school and host a “Friday Night Lights” practice. The most impressive part is they take it to a local high school’s field, Brookwood in Seneca, GA. Not many teams do that so that is pretty unique.
#3 – Chicago Bears
First practice is scheduled for July 31st at Olivet Nazarene University
The Bears are at the top of this list because of the shear amount of activities and themes they have. First, I’ll say they’ve got all the usual stuff, kid’s zones, Gatorade Jr camps, kid autograph sessions and plenty of giveaways.
The impressive thing thou is they have theme days much like baseball teams have their themed nights. These days included Comcast Hispanic Day, Run With Staley (mascot), Safety Service Day (with members of local fire, police, medical) and a very very popular Armed Forces Day.
In addition they’ve also got the Family Night at the practice facility and a Family Day at Soldier Field.
Did I mention they’ve also got a beer garden!!!! One of few teams that actually allow real beverages.
What makes it even more enjoyable for the fans is the team that hosts all of that is DA BEARS!
#2 – Philadelphia Eagles
First practice is scheduled for July 27th at Lehigh University
What makes the Eagles camp one of the best for fans is well, the fans. They’ve got some of the rowdiest and most loyal fans in the league. Starting July 27th the Phillies will almost be put on the backburner in the city because it’s now Eagles time. (Personally, I think that’s obnoxious its jumps and they are the PHUCKING CHAMPS!)
Many people save their family vacations for August. They don’t go to the shore, they go to the country to watch their Eagles. All the parents and kids want to do is go up to Bethlehem and watch B-West make a great cut and be off to the races. Watch #5 throw the deep bomb to DeSean for six. All while chanting E-A-G-L-E-S.
After all that is said and done they want to take their chance at getting that big autograph. The Eagles autograph sessions after practice is one of the biggest highlights of camp for people. Like I said it’s a loyal fan base and they want to add that to their living room shrines.
One of the most popular events of the past, The Eagles Carnival and Auction will no longer be taking place. After 14 years the organization thought it was best to retire it for something better, “Eagles Flight Night”.
The Eagles will head home to the Linc for a night practice on August 2nd. Unfortunately it’s a high priced event but their faithful will be there. To start practice the team will hold player introductions like it was a regular season game, something that will be sure to fire the fans up. During practice you can expect the hot Eagles cheerleaders and Swoop to be all over the stadium. After its all said and done they’ll be a fireworks show.
Most Eagles fans will be mad their camp is number one. They want to be the best in everything. But just like the Super Bowl they tend to fall just short. (Sorry had to take one shot at ya guys!)
#1 – Green Bay Packers
First practice is scheduled for August 1st in Green Bay.
The Packers are here not just because of activities but because of tradition. The Packers have long been known to have one of the best training camps and some fans leave with amazing stories to tell. One tradition included kids giving their bikes to players who would then ride the bike to practice with the kid either on the handle bar or his back.
Another highlight of the Packers camp is its proximity to Lambeau field. It’s closeness to the field allow the fans to venture over to the venue and check out things like the Packers Hall of Fame or even take a tour of the stadium.
They’ve also got the Tundra Tailgate Zone (air conditioned) and Curly Pub / Game Zone to stop and eat and drink, in between or after practices. Another team allowing booze, I like it!
These are all things that make the Packers camp number one in my book. They take all the typical kid friendly things you see at other camps and involve their team’s rich history in to it. For a team like the Packers that is big considering they have one of the most storied pasts in NFL history.
So there you go, those are the Top 10 NFL Training Camp Locations in my book. Have you been to an NFL Camp and think they belong? Think one is ranked too high or too low? Leave a comment and state your experience!
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