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Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Updated: July 24, 5:13 PM ET
2009 Training Camp Guide: NFC

ESPN SportsTravel

NFC Training Camp 2009
Fans who travel all the way to Flagstaff will try to determine if the Cardinals' Super Bowl appearance was a sign of good things to come or merely an an aberration. Get thee to Arizona to find out.
• Photo gallery: Off to camp

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49ers | Giants | Lions | Packers | Panthers | Rams | Redskins | Saints | Seahawks | Vikings


NFC EAST


Dallas Cowboys
• Location: Alamodome, San Antonio
• Camp dates: July 29-Aug. 19
• Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule | Directions and parking

• What Matt Mosley says: The Cowboys return to San Antonio after spending last year in Oxnard, Calif. Practices are held in the Alamodome. The stadium holds 65,000 people, but the most you should expect to encounter on a normal practice day is somewhere in the 5,000 range. Plenty of good seats, and you'll want to sit down low. Since Bill Parcells is no longer around, there's music piped in and mascots running around the field. Players stick around and sign autographs after most practices. You just need to make sure you find a spot along the front railing toward the end of practice. Players will start at the 50-yard line and work their way down with the fans. There's no set autograph schedule, though.

Camp photo tour

To get the full picture of what to expect from a training camp road trip, click here.

• What to do besides training camp: The place to be in San Antonio is the River Walk, a strip of shops and eateries in the downtown area. The historic Alamo, now a museum, is a must-see, and SeaWorld is in town, as well. Art lovers can visit the state's first museum of modern art, McNay Art Museum, or the San Antonio Museum of Art. There is no shortage of the area's well-known Tex-Mex cuisine, either.

New York Giants
• Location: University at Albany, Albany, N.Y.
• Camp dates: Aug. 3-25
• Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule | Directions and parking

• What Matt Mosley says: The Albany campus isn't quite as idyllic as that of Lehigh University, where the Eagles train, but there are some neat touches. There's plenty of space in the school's football stadium to make sure you have excellent views. From these seats, you can watch Fox's Jay Glazer extend man hugs to the Giants' coaching staff. The Giants have their meetings over near the student union building, so there's a chance you could walk the campus and run into Tom Coughlin or Justin Tuck. It happened to me last year.
• What to do besides training camp: The Albany area is host to a bevy of parks, including Washington Park, Buckingham Lake Park and Lincoln Park. Visit the New York State Capitol Building or the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, also known as SPAC. There also are several renowned museums, including the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, both of which are located in Saratoga Springs. Or play the ponies at charming Saratoga Race Course, the nation's oldest organized sporting venue.

Philadelphia Eagles
• Location: Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.
• Camp dates: July 26-Aug. 12
• Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule | Directions

• What Matt Mosley says: This is by far the best throwback environment. Located on the campus of Lehigh University, the practice fields are immaculate. And as long as there's good weather, this is the best place in the division to watch training camp. You're close enough to shout things at Donovan McNabb, and he might even acknowledge you. The Eagles also are good about sticking to an autograph schedule. Last I heard, running backs and linebackers will be signing July 31 followed by the offensive line and defensive backs on Aug. 1. It's just a beautiful setting in the Lehigh Valley.
• What to do besides training camp: Bethlehem has nearly 40 parks, so take advantage of the opportunity to kick back and enjoy the great outdoors. If you're feeling lucky, you can visit the Sands Casino Resort. One of the largest music festivals in the country, Musikfest, takes place in Bethlehem from July 31 to Aug. 9, when more than 300 performers from across the globe will descend on the city.

Washington Redskins
• Location: Redskins Park, Ashburn, Va.
• Camp dates: Begins July 30
• Team Web site | Camp info/practice schedule | FAQ and directions | Map of camp

• What Matt Mosley says: If you're going to watch the Skins, start early, as parking can be a bit of an issue at the team's year-around practice facility. I'd recommend finding one of the high ridges surrounding the practice fields to enjoy the best sight lines. Dan Snyder didn't build this facility with training camp fans in mind. But the Redskins realize that and make sure they take care of their followers with autograph sessions and giveaways. Fan Appreciation Day is Aug. 8, which also is the end of the open practice schedule. It's an absolute madhouse, I'm told. But if you get there (ridiculously early), it's probably a fun time. Scrimmage begins at 2 p.m. And if you're in town for the Paul McCartney concert at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Aug. 1, stick around and attend the 8:30 a.m. practice the next morning.
• What to do besides training camp: Those craving summer fun can find a water park in Centreville, just 10 minutes away. In nearby Leesburg, Skins fans can see many outdoor sights, including the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail, Ida Lee Park and Red Rocks Wilderness Overlook Regional Park. Washington, D.C. is nearby, of course, so the sports traveler can turn tourism buff and venture to the nation's capital for a day of amazement and education.



NFC NORTH


Chicago Bears
• Location: Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.
• Camp dates: July 31-Aug. 20
• Team Web site | Camp info/practice schedule | Directions to campus | Campus map

• What Kevin Seifert says: There are plenty of places to watch a Bears practice here. But fans who can't make the 60-mile drive from downtown Chicago have a cool option. The Bears annually hold one practice at Soldier Field, and this year the team will make the trek back to the city for an Aug. 8 practice. Games and live music are part of the festivities, and the first 30,000 fans -- yes, it draws that many -- are eligible to win a chance to be on the field after practice for a meet-and-greet with players. The festivities start at 10 a.m.; practice begins at noon.
• What to do besides training camp: The neighboring city of Kankakee has the second-largest state park in the state: Kankakee River State Park. In addition, the tallest building in the western hemisphere, the Sears Tower -- soon to be called the Willis Tower -- is located in Chicago. Tourists also may come to cherish the beauty of Lake Michigan that laps at the Windy City.

Detroit Lions
• Location: Allen Park Headquarters, Allen Park, Mich.
• Camp dates: Begins July 31
• Team Web site | Training camp information

• What Kevin Seifert says: The Lions hold training camp at their year-round practice facility. Only a limited number of fans are invited to watch from a set of temporary bleachers. It may sound bland, but things can still get spicy. Last summer, a fan started taunting then-Lions receiver Roy Williams for taking plays off and not working hard. Security officials soon ejected the fan. Moral of the story: Don't protest too much at Lions camp.
• What to do besides training camp: While in the Motor City area, it might be fitting to visit the Henry Ford Museum, which features not only exhibits related to automotive history but other artifacts, as well, including the rocking chair Abraham Lincoln sat in when he was assassinated at Ford's Theatre. The National Amphibian Conservation Center and Detroit Science Center are at the disposal of visitors to Detroit area, as is Comerica Park, home of the Tigers.

Green Bay Packers
• Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
• Camp dates: Aug. 1-Sept. 1
• Team Web site | Training camp information | Practice schedule | Directions and parking

• What Kevin Seifert says: Packers fans will find upgraded facilities this summer when they show up to watch camp. Rather than erecting temporary bleachers on the sidewalk alongside Oneida Street, the Packers have built permanent seating for about 1,500 people on their newly designed Ray Nitschke Field. That will surely be a more comfortable resting spot for those fans who partake in the greatest camp tradition of all: chasing Packers players as they ride bicycles from the team's locker room at Lambeau Field to the practice field. Start stretching now.
• What to do besides training camp: Player accessibility is excellent at camp. A visit to Lambeau in August is the best time to land an autograph from your favorite Packer. Green Bay has comfortable weather in the summer. It is home to a national railroad museum, the Packers Hall of Fame and Bay Beach Amusement Park. If you are in the mood for a day trip, catch a Brewers game at Miller Park in Milwaukee. (Also see: Pilgrimage to Lambeau Field)

Minnesota Vikings
• Location: Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minn.
• Camp dates: July 31-Aug. 12
• Team Web site | Camp info (incl. highway detour) | Practice schedule | FAQ and directions

• What Kevin Seifert says: Here's a tip to share with your closest friends: The best place to watch Vikings training camp is from the top row of Minnesota State's Blakeslee Stadium. Most of the Vikings practices occur on the three fields adjacent to Blakeslee, but the bleachers alongside Field No. 1 aren't high enough to see Field No. 3. You get your best view from the top of the stadium. Just climb to the top and look over the wall. And on the rare occasions when the team moves into the stadium you won't have to fight the rush.
• What to do besides training camp: The Alltel Center is located in Mankato and is host to the Hickory Street RibFest Aug. 6-9 and, for you hard rockers, the Pedal to the Metal Tour Aug. 12. Campers or bikers may want to pay a visit to Land of Memories Park or Minneopa State Park, established in 1905. If you're in the mood to shop, visit the River Hills Mall, an enclosed shopping center in town.



NFC SOUTH


Atlanta Falcons
• Location: Falcons Facility, Flowery Branch, Ga.
• Camp dates: Aug. 1-24
• Team Web site | Training camp information | Practice schedule | Directions

• What Pat Yasinskas says: In the NFC South, where everywhere is very hot in August, Flowery Branch might be the division's most comfortable training site. It's based on the shores of Lake Lanier and has a few hills around it. In other words, there's at least the possibility of a breeze. The high spot on the property where fans are relegated to watch practice sessions is the best vantage point in the NFC South and players often come over to sign autographs at the end of practice.
• What to do besides training camp: The community of Flowery Branch does not boast prominent tourist attractions, but it is certainly appealing for those looking to kick back, relax and enjoy the Falcons. While doing so, fans of the Dirty Birds can visit the Elachee Nature Science Center, which has a preserve, an interactive museum, hiking trails and many opportunities to see animals.

Carolina Panthers
• Location: Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.
• Camp dates: Aug. 3-20
• Team Web site | Training camp information | Practice schedule | Directions and parking

• What Pat Yasinskas says: With Tampa Bay and New Orleans each bringing training camp home to their regular practice facilities this year, the Panthers are the only NFC South team that still goes on the road for training camp. And they've got a perfect setup at Wofford College. Owner Jerry Richardson is a Wofford alum and part of the reason he keeps camp in Spartanburg is so the team can represent both of the Carolinas. The venue is only a little more than an hour's ride from Charlotte and many fans make the trip. The area where the players walk off the field toward the locker room also provides the best spot for autographs in the NFC South.
• What to do besides training camp: Check out the Sake Grill near campus. It's not fancy, but the food is outstanding, especially the egg rolls. Spartanburg also features the world-famous Beacon Drive-In, which has been serving huge portions, delicious tea and massive bowls of ice cream since 1946. Spartanburg is home to the only BMW plant in North America. The BMW Zentrum located next to the plant offers individual and group tours. Besides high-tech exhibits, one can see "art cars" designed by famous artists such as Andy Warhol and Frank Stella.

New Orleans Saints
• Location: Saints practice facility, Metairie, La.
• Camp dates: July 31-Sept. 1
• Team Web site | Practice schedule and directions

• What Pat Yasinskas says: The Saints have pulled back to their facility in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, after spending their past three camps in Jackson, Miss. The move will sit well with the players and local fan base. Metairie's not going to be much cooler than Jackson, but the Saints have the luxury of being able to move inside if it rains or the weather becomes too hot. If they're training outside, the Saints have a massive set of bleachers that run the length of the practice field and give fans a good look at practice.
• What to do besides training camp: When you're not watching football, catch a little baseball at Zephyr Field, home of the Pacific Coast League's New Orleans Zephyrs. A stroll down Bourbon Street is almost mandatory, if only to enjoy some of the area's unique French and Creole cuisines.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
• Location: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, Fla.
• Camp dates: Aug. 1-19
• Team Web site | Practice schedule | Camp map

• What Pat Yasinskas says: After spending most of the past decade training at Disney's Wide World of Sports, the Bucs are moving home to One Buccaneer Place. This venue is a bit of an unknown, but One Buc Place is a state-of-the-art facility in the shadows of Raymond James Stadium and it's a safe bet the setting will be fan friendly. Admission is free, but fans are encouraged to register for the One Buc Club on buccaneers.com. Members can select dates and times they want to attend camp and print out tickets. Fans that aren't members may have trouble getting in because the team won't distribute more tickets if capacity is reached by members of the One Buc Club.
• What to do besides training camp: The Tampa area has a variety of theme parks and other big-time attractions. Busch Gardens Africa and the Lowry Park Zoo enjoy huge displays of wildlife, as does the Florida Aquarium, with its more than 20,000 species of aquatic creatures. Adventure Island is a popular water park. And you nautical types may wish to visit the S.S. American Victory, a retired World War II vessel that has been converted into a museum.



NFC WEST


Arizona Cardinals
• Location: Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Ariz.
• Camp dates: July 31-Aug. 20
• Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule/directions

• What Mike Sando says: Northern Arizona University provides an ideal setting for fans to watch practice. All practices are open to the public. Selected players and coaches sign autographs after every session. Bleachers provide clear sight lines to the main practice fields. The team holds its Red & White scrimmage-style practice Aug. 8 at 11:30 a.m., followed by a full-team autograph session. The team moves to NAU's Lumberjack Stadium for night practices Aug. 5 and Aug. 18.
• What to do besides training camp: Flagstaff is a place where one can enjoy all the wondrous parts of Mother Nature. East of the city is a large ponderosa pine forest, which makes for an ideal place for relaxation and exploration. The city borders Mount Elden, which is easy to explore with its many roads. Pueblos and other ancient American Indian dwellings are found nearby; consider visiting wonderful Wupatki and Montezuma Castle national monuments. Of course, a trip to Arizona would not be complete a visit to the Grand Canyon, and Flagstaff is the southern gateway to the giant hole in the ground.

St. Louis Rams
• Location: Rams practice facility, St. Louis
• Camp dates: Begins July 31
• Team Web site | Training camp information | Directions to campus

• What Mike Sando says: The Rams have relocated training camp to their Russell Training Center facility at team headquarters in Earth City. Camp opens July 31 and the team plans to open 32 practices to the public. Select players will sign autographs after the morning practices. The team provides bleachers for fans, with additional seating on a hill near the fields. The team's annual camp scrimmage, which also is open, is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 7 at Lindenwood College, in nearby St. Charles, Mo.
• What to do besides training camp: The city of St. Louis has no shortage of places to see when you're away from training camp. The Gateway Arch is certainly the most recognizable. Forest Park's Jewel Box, an art deco greenhouse more than 70 years old, mixes interesting architecture with a relaxing day outdoors. Continuing with the architecture theme, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is well worth visiting, if not altogether awe-inspiring. And for you lovers of Italian food, don't forget to drop by The Hill, a neighborhood known for its wide selection of Italian eateries.

San Francisco 49ers
• Location: Team practice facility, Santa Clara, Calif.
• Camp dates: Begins Aug. 1
• Team Web site | Training camp information

• What Mike Sando says: The 49ers will open four practices, less than half as many as usual, as the team continues to renovate its facilities. Fans planning to attend camp must register through 49ers.com; tickets are no longer available. Fans generally watch practices from aluminum bleachers with clear sight lines to the fields.
• What to do besides training camp: Santa Clara can be fun for the whole family, as it is home to California's Great America, the only theme park in northern California with a water park on the premises. If that doesn't give you your fill of fun, you can always go to one of the area's other theme parks: Gilroy Gardens, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom or the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk -- all of which are in reasonable proximity to 49ers camp. Additionally, Santa Clara University is historically significant as the oldest college in California.

Seattle Seahawks
• Location: Team practice facility, Renton, Wash.
• Camp dates: Aug. 3-20
• Team Web site | Training camp FAQ | Practice schedule | Getting to camp

• What Mike Sando says: The Seahawks are holding training camp at their new waterfront facility for the first time. The setting is beautiful, with Lake Washington in the background. But space limitations will force fans to make special arrangements. Fans planning on attending practices, which begin Aug. 3, must register at seahawks.com. Open practices will be staged at the University of Washington's Husky Stadium Aug. 7 and 18.
• What to do besides training camp: While you're in the area, it might be fun to take a dip in Lake Washington, which touches Renton directly on its southeast side. In your time away from the Hawks practice, you can also take a ride over to Seattle to take an elevator ride up the Space Needle, which has long been the city's most recognizable tourist attraction. The Henry Art Gallery, opened in 1927, Seattle Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, Pacific Science Center and Experience Music Project are other popular destinations.

• AFC Team-by-Team Training Camp Travel Guide

Kristian Dyer contributed to this article.