Most Teams No Longer Train On College Campuses
RAVENS MERELY PART OF THE CURRENT TREND
By Joe Platania
Apparently, NFL teams are becoming their sport's version of the precocious basketball phenom; that is, college campuses don't appeal to them anymore.
Just as hardwood royalty is no longer guaranteed to spend more than a year or two in college (if they go at all), it's now become normal for pro football squads to forgo the isolation of a collegiate facility and to bring their training-camp workouts in-house, to either their own practice facility or, in some cases, their home stadium.
On one hand, college-campus-based training camps have been known to foster a certain "esprit de corps," or team unity. Working out in a somewhat-desolate area -- but not so desolate that the fans can't watch -- was said to be good for team-building and focus.
But these days, what's good for a team's bottom line has become a determining factor.
The Ravens cited annual costs upward of $1 million to $2 million in deciding to end their 15-year stretch of training at Westminster's Western Maryland College (which became McDaniel College in 2002) and bring camp back home to the named Under Armour Performance Center.
The Ravens trained in Westminster from 1996-2010, almost as long as the 19 years the Baltimore Colts spent there (1953-71). But when the Colts pulled away from that campus, they merely chose another one, eventually winding up at Towson's Goucher College.
The 2011 league lockout certainly played a part in the Ravens' decision; Baltimore, the New York Giants and Jets all cited the time crunch between the settlement of the dispute and the start of camp in staying home for preseason sessions (it should be noted that both New York teams are heading back to the usual college sites this year).
When it comes to the recent in-house trend, Baltimore wasn't the first team to do it, and it might not be the last.
As recently as a dozen years ago, all but a few teams still trained at college campuses. But this year, only 12 of 32 squads are doing so, five in the AFC and seven in the NFC.
That number includes the Pittsburgh Steelers' annual trek to St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pa., where they have gone each year since 1967. That is the longest consecutive marriage between a team and camp location in the AFC.
The Steelers' stretch is tied for second-longest in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, who have made an annual trek to Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., for the same number of years.
The longest current streak belongs to the Green Bay Packers, who this year will mark their 55th straight training camp at St. Norbert College in DePere, Wisc.
Exactly half the league's teams (16) are holding training camps at their year-round facilities, eight from each conference. Two teams, the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, will conduct training camp at their own stadiums, Gillette Stadium and Paul Brown Stadium, respectively.
The Dallas Cowboys will hold a split training camp, starting at the City of Oxnard Fields in northern California before returning to their off-and-on San Antonio base. The Oakland Raiders' camp location is listed as the Napa Valley Marriott.
Even though the Cowboys and Giants are playing the season-opening game one day earlier than usual, it's not affecting when they report to camp. The annual Hall of Fame Game also hasn't pushed up the report dates for Arizona or New Orleans.
But a few teams are getting to work earlier than others.
Rookies from both the Patriots and Buffalo Bills are getting the jump on everyone else; the Bills' youngsters actually hit the field earlier this week, while the Patriots' neophytes will start their sessions July 19.
In the NFC, rookie early-bird honors go to Washington (July 16), Carolina (July 16) and Tampa Bay (July 18). Every other team in the league won't start any workouts until after the July 20.
As they have done since John Harbaugh became the head coach in 2008, the Ravens are using split report dates for rookies and veterans (July 24, 26). That's something the team had not done under Ted Marchibroda and Brian Billick.
But Baltimore is one of 17 teams with split report dates, nine in the AFC and eight in the NFC. Even though the Ravens' dates are rather close together, it does give the team's newest players time for a little more attention and nuturing.
That is, the kind many basketball players could have gotten in college.
Posted July 11, 2012