The Weather Channel has its list of the “worst weather NFL training camps’’ and the NFC South dominates the top 10.
No surprise. It’s the South and it’s summer. It’s going to be hot and you know that going in.
Each of the four cities where NFC South teams train is ranked in the top 10. Tampa is No. 3 (behind only Miami and No. 1 Houston). Metairie, La., camp home for the Saints, is No. 4. Flowery Branch, Ga., home to the Falcons, is No. 7 and the Carolina Panthers’ camp in Spartanburg, S.C. ranks No. 9.
My only problem with this list is I think it’s out of order. I’m about to set out on my fifth tour of all the NFC South training camps and I spent more than a little camp time in Spartanburg and Tampa before that. I may not be a meteorologist, but my weather instincts and the hats I’ve ruined with sweat tell me that this list needs some flipping.
There is no cool, humidity-free spot in the NFC South, but I’d say Flowery Branch is easily the most tolerable location. You’re on the shores of Lake Lanier and there's a little elevation, so there’s at least the hope of a breeze. Believe it or not, I’d put Tampa as the second most tolerable of the four.
I think people freak out because it’s Florida and the assumption is that the heat is brutal. Yes, it is hot – for six months straight. But I live in Tampa and was more bothered by the heat in Pennsylvania when I visited there earlier this summer. Tampa’s got a little protection because it often rains in the summer and there’s frequently a breeze. It may get up to about 93 or 94 degrees, but it doesn’t usually go much higher and there’s always the hope of a quick storm to cool things off. Plus, the Bucs have cover over most of the seating area for their fans and that helps.
There is no cover in Metairie or Spartanburg. But I’ll go with Metairie as the third most tolerable NFC South destination because, like Tampa, the Gulf of Mexico isn’t far off and cooling storms often come to the rescue.
Spartanburg, at least the Wofford College training complex, is far off from everything – mountains, elevation, shade trees, water, etc. I’ve been out on the Panthers’ practice field on many days where there wasn’t even the hint of a breeze and the humidity was brutal. The air just seems to sit still.
I distinctly remember a day back in the mid-2000s. Spartanburg seemed hotter than ever. Panthers trainer Ryan Vermillion was in charge of watching the heat index and alerting former coach John Fox if it approached a dangerous level. On that particular day, Fox stopped practice less than halfway through for safety reasons. I remember walking off the field with Vermillion and asking him how high the heat index got. He pulled out a gadget that had the numbers “117’’ on it.
That’s why I’m glad Carolina coach Ron Rivera has decided to have almost all evening practices this year.