2008 Training Camp Guide: NFC Team-by-Team

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Dallas Cowboys
Location: Marriott Residence Inn at River Ridge, Oxnard, Calif.
Camp dates: July 25-Aug. 12
Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule

What Matt Mosley says: The Cowboys will leave San Antonio for one training camp and return to Oxnard, Calif, where they worked out from 2004 to 2006. South Texas is a much easier trip for the team and has a larger fan base, but owner Jerry Jones covets the attention of NFL fans in southern California. During the Tom Landry years, the Cowboys spent many a training camp down the road from Oxnard in Thousand Oaks, Calif. I'd recommend getting to camp in the early days of the summer session, before head coach Wade Phillips starts easing his players into the start of the regular season. Practices are free, but parking at River Ridge Field adjacent to the Marriott Residence Inn has been $5 in the past. There is room for up to 5,000 fans, many of whom stand against a fence next to one of two practice fields. Golfers on a nearby course can stand on the tee box and observe practices, which generally begin at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

What to do besides training camp: If you can't book a room at the team's headquarters at the Residence Inn Oxnard, the full-service Marriott in Ventura, Calif., is a good bet. It's an eight-minute drive from the practice field. Cafe Fiore (66 California St.) and Winchester's Grill (632 E. Main St.) are both fine places to eat and drink in Ventura. Andria's Seafood Restaurant and Market (1449 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura) offers the best fried cod in the area. There's a good bet you'll bump into Jones at Fiore or Andria's at least two nights a week.

New York Giants
Location: University at Albany, Albany, N.Y.
Camp dates: July 25-Aug. 17
Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule | Directions and parking

What Jeffri Chadiha says: Talk about your minimalist environments. Once you reach campus in Albany, you realize the Giants planned training camp in the right place; fans don't hang around as they do at other places. They line the sidelines during practices, but they usually vanish following each session. After that, the campus starts to feel like a compound controlled by Giants coach Tom Coughlin. The team's camp offers few social activities – unless you're willing to drive into town.

What to do besides training camp: The natural question to ask is, what is there to do in Albany? First, a family can take a tour of the New York State Capitol Building. Second, one can plan a day trip to Saratoga Springs. Albany also has a number of theaters, as well as a symphony orchestra for those into the arts.

Philadelphia Eagles
Location: Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.
Camp dates: July 22-Aug. 12
Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule | Directions

What Jeffri Chadiha says: One trip to the Eagles' camp at Lehigh and you'll think that you're attending an outdoor concert. Thousands of fans show up for each practice session, and they're as vocal as any group in the NFL. Many come to grab autographs from the players who are designated to sign each day, but most just want to be around the team. The only negative is the labyrinthine streets that wind throughout the campus. But the scenery – especially the lush rolling hills – makes it easier to deal with getting lost.

What to do besides training camp: One of the largest music festivals in the country, Musikfest, takes place in Bethlehem from Aug. 1-10, when more than 300 performers from across the globe will descend on the city.

Washington Redskins
Location: Redskins Park, Ashburn, Va.
Camp dates: July 20-July 28
Team Web site | Training camp information/Practice schedule | Directions and parking

What Jeffri Chadiha says: Here is another team that prefers to stay home for training camp. The benefit is that Redskins fans don't have to drive hours to follow their team. The downside is that Redskins Park can be a logistical nightmare. The parking situation can get pretty bad; the droves of fans that show up easily can create a frustrating gridlock on nearby streets. That said, this is another team with faithful followers who don't mind those kinds of headaches to get a peek at their squad.

What to do besides training camp: There is a water park about 10 minutes from Ashburn in Centreville, and an animal park in Leesburg. The best part about Ashburn is that it is only 45 minutes from Washington, D.C., allowing a Redskins fan to watch training camp in the morning and return to the city in the afternoon.

Chicago Bears
Location: Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.
Camp dates: July 23-Aug. 14
Team Web site | Training camp information/Practice schedule | Directions to campus

What John Clayton says: Since moving to Bourbonnais, the Bears have set up one of the league's best camps for fans. There are so many interactive things for fans that it's almost like a small-scale Bears theme park. There are stands to sit and review the quickness of the defense. Fans line up outside of the ropes to watch offensive drills. Parking space is ample.

What to do besides training camp: Kankakee, the next town over from Bourbonnais, is home to the second-largest state park in Illinois, as well as Exploration Station – considered one of the top children's museums in the country. If fans are looking for an enjoyable activity, they should visit Splash Valley Aquatic Park. The Bears' training camp can be a perfect half-day trip for those looking to escape the congestion of a big city, indeed a big-shouldered, windy city.

Detroit Lions
Location: Allen Park Headquarters, Allen Park, Mich.
Camp dates: July 24-Aug. 16 (eight sessions open to public; first 700 fans get in)
Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule

What John Clayton says: The Lions have an incredible place of business, with an indoor facility that is spacious and an outside field that is well manicured and located on the outskirts of the Ford Motor Co. Each day at practice Bill Ford Jr. drives over a new car.

What to do besides training camp: Consider catching a Tigers game in the evening. One must also visit the Henry Ford Museum, with its impressive historical artifacts that include the Rosa Parks Bus. The museum also includes an eight-story IMAX theater. The Detroit Zoo has the world's largest polar bear exhibit; its National Amphibian Conservation Center features an indoor rain forest. And the Detroit Science Center is an excellent place for children to explore.

Green Bay Packers
Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
Camp dates: July 28-Aug. 26
Team Web site | Training camp information | Practice schedule | Directions | Parking

What John Clayton says: It's fitting that a community-owned team has a community-based practice for training camp. Wisconsin natives plan their summer vacations around Packers practices. The team trains across the street from Lambeau Field, and police stop traffic to make sure players and fans make it over to the field safely and in a timely fashion. One of the highlights is watching kids lend their bikes to players, who ride with the youngsters across the parking lot on return to the locker room. It's one of the best scenes of summer.

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 Milwaukee Brewers game at Miller Park. (Also see: Pilgrimage to Lambeau Field)

Minnesota Vikings
Location: Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minn.
Camp dates: July 25-Aug. 14
Team Web site | Training camp information | Practice schedule | Directions

What John Clayton says: The Vikings continue to train at Minnesota State, Mankato, and there is no reason to leave. They practice off three fields and occasionally use a fourth field at Blakeslee Stadium, which has lights for night events. Morning practice is staged on the open practice field near the stadium, but the main events are scheduled in the stadium. Vikings fans fill the seats and an announcer keeps everyone informed of the action when the team is practicing in the stadium. (Note that you'll have to travel to River Falls, Wis., to see the Vikings annual scrimmage against the Chiefs on July 31; that's a highlight.)

What to do besides training camp: Located in southwestern Minnesota, Mankato provides a relaxing atmosphere in the summer. Families looking for evening entertainment should check out the Mankato MoonDogs of the independent Northwoods League. Mankato also has the Alltel Center, which usually offers a series of summer concerts.

Atlanta Falcons
Location: Falcons Facility, Flowery Branch, Ga.
Camp dates: July 26-Aug. 15
Team Web site | Training camp information

What Pat Yasinskas says: Flowery Branch can take about an hour to reach from downtown Atlanta, but it's well worth the trip. The complex is near the shores of Lake Lanier and the roadside stands for boiled peanuts will let you know you're a long way from Atlanta's urban sprawl. But the Falcons, who have spent the last seven months trying to win back their fans, won't be conducting their entire camp in Flowery Branch. They'll hold a scrimmage at Mill Creek High School in Hochston on Aug. 1 and a mock game at the refurbished Georgia Dome on Aug. 2 during the team's first-ever Allstate All-Access Weekend.

What to do besides training camp: Flowery Branch's best selling point is the serenity. One place to visit nearby is the Elachee Nature Science Center, a good place for families as it has a preserve, interactive museum, live animal exhibits and more than 13 miles of hiking trails.

Carolina Panthers
Location: Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.
Camp dates: July 26-Aug. 13
Team Web site | Training camp information | Practice schedule | Directions

What Pat Yasinskas says: The players will tell you Spartanburg is a little spartan when it comes to things to do off the field. But the coaches want the seclusion, and the facilities at Wofford College are among the best of all training camps. Team owner Jerry Richardson is a Wofford grad and has made sure his school has nothing but the best. Bug spray and cold water are essential at this venue, but the hill overlooking the practice fields provides a great view.

What to do besides training camp: Check out the Sake Grill near campus. It's not fancy, but the food – especially the egg rolls – is outstanding. Spartanburg also features the world-famous Beacon Drive In; huge portions, delicious tea and massive bowls of ice cream highlight a restaurant at which everyone in the family should find something to enjoy. 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: Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss.
Camp dates: July 24-Aug. 21
Team Web site | Training camp information | Directions to campus

What Pat Yasinskas says: The Saints will hold their third straight training camp at Millsaps College and there are plenty of other attractions in Jackson. The Mississippi State Capitol building highlights a downtown that features plenty of history dating to the antebellum days. The city has more than 690 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Medgar Evers Home Museum. If you want to get some Mississippi catfish or check out some unique Elvis décor while listening to live music, head over to Hal & Mal's Restaurant and Brewery on South Commerce Street.

What to do besides training camp: The Mississippi Braves, the Atlanta Braves' Double-A affiliate, play their home games about 10 minutes from Jackson at Trustmark Park. If you are a New Orleans native and want to taste your traditional cuisine, the place to eat is Que Sera. Looking for culture, visit the Mississippi Museum of Art and the Mississippi Blues Trail. It's also worth noting that Vicksburg, some 50 miles west, has a few casinos and some telling Civil War history.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Location: Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Camp dates: July 26-Aug. 14
Team Web site | Training camp information | Practice schedule

What Pat Yasinskas says: Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex is a long way from the days when the Bucs trained at the University of Tampa. The ride will take you about an hour from downtown Tampa, but the facility is spectacular. And there's a lot more than football going on at the complex, which also hosts AAU basketball tournaments and soccer and baseball events for most of the summer.

What to do besides training camp: This training camp might be in the world's most convenient location. Disney World, Epcot Center, MGM Studios and SeaWorld are just a few of the places nearby one could visit. There is no need for a guide here.

Arizona Cardinals
Location: Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Ariz.
Camp dates: July 25-Aug. 21
Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule

What John Clayton says: Flagstaff is a little cooler than the 100-degree temperatures one can expect in Phoenix, but there is plenty of excitement – especially lightning storms – on the Northern Arizona University campus when the Cardinals practice. On any given day a storm cell can arrive quickly onto the scene and scare rookies. I've seen trees struck by lightning after some practices. The Cardinals' camp has one of the longest lines of autograph-seeking fans, and players often oblige those requests.

What to do besides training camp: Watch Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart throw passes in the morning and view the red rocks of Sedona in the afternoon. The Grand Canyon is but 80 miles away. Closer are the San Francisco Peaks and Sunset Crater.

St. Louis Rams
Location: Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis.
Camp dates: July 25-Aug. 14
Team Web site | Training camp information | Practice schedule | Directions to campus

What John Clayton says: The Rams are moving north to Concordia University Wisconsin, which is near Lake Michigan and where camp is conducted at an ideal time of year. Head coach Scott Linehan wanted to try something different to get his team together after being at the team facility for work the past two summers. The Rams hope the change of scenery will promote team chemistry and generate some energy. (Last season the Rams' chances of success ended early when injuries destroyed their offensive line, leaving quarterback Marc Bulger vulnerable to hit after hit and injury after injury.) Linehan has an aggressive schedule that also includes a couple of days of scrimmages against the Titans in Nashville. But being near the water should be relaxing for those who want to watch the Rams. Seeing halfback Steven Jackson also is a treat.

What to do besides training camp: It's a sweet spot, because camp is so close to Milwaukee. Catch a Brewers game after practice. The Brewers are one of the surprise teams in baseball and they are loaded with good, young talent. If you've never toured some of the cheese shops, you can't go wrong. This may be a Packers state, but the location is perfectly set up to do some touring and watch some football.

San Francisco 49ers
Location: Team practice facility, Santa Clara, Calif.
Camp dates: Begins July 25 (eight sessions open to public; free tickets)
Team Web site | Training camp information/practice schedule

What John Clayton says: What's better than 49er camp? First, it's located on the outside of Great America amusement park, which could make for a great doubleheader for the entire family. Catch a morning or afternoon practice with one of the up-and-coming teams in football and slide over to the theme park. The 49ers train at their headquarters and have a nice setup for fans, with stands and refreshments.

What to do besides training camp: Santa Clara is 45 minutes from downtown San Francisco; visit 49ers' camp in the morning and shop in Union Square in the afternoon. Other must-see places in San Francisco include Alcatraz, Pier 39, Golden Gate Park and the Ferry Building. Back at team headquarters, the Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club is located but a few feet away, should campgoers wish to take some swings while in town. For a true taste of Silicon Valley history, the Intel Museum also is just down the street. And nearby Triton Museum of Art offers free admission.

Seattle Seahawks
Location: Team practice facility, Kirkland, Wash.
Camp dates: Begins July 25 (closed to public)
Team Web site

What John Clayton says: The Seahawks close practice to the public now that they have returned to the team facility on the outskirts of Seattle, but that's only temporary. The new team headquarters on Lake Washington is close to opening, giving fans the chance to see Seahawks practices and watch the Jim Mora era take shape in 2009. The new facilities are in Renton but won't be open for the start of training camp. The team ended its longtime relationship with Eastern Washington University, which has a nice campus but is on the other side of the state. (The reason camp isn't open at the old Seattle-area headquarters in Kirkland is because it is in a residential area and there are no parking spaces.)

What to do besides training camp: Since you can't actually see the 'Hawks, consider touring Kirkland and its many relaxation points from which to view the wonderful waters of Lake Washington. It also has art galleries that are worth taking in. The best part about Kirkland is its proximity to the Emerald City.

(Note: The Seahawks' annual scrimmage will be held Aug. 2 at Qwest Field; tickets are $12 general admission, $5 for ages 6 to 17.)

AFC Team-by-Team Training Camp Travel Guide