Opening day of training camp: Buffalo Bills one of only 6 NFL teams ‘on the road’ | Buffalo Bills News | NFL
The Buffalo Bills resume their membership Sunday in an endangered fraternity: NFL clubs that go away to training camp.
The Bills, who hold their first practice at St. John Fisher University at 9:45 am, are one of only six clubs that are spending training camp away from their team facilities this summer.
Twenty-years ago, 22 of 32 teams went away to training camp. Ten years ago, the number was down to 13 of 32 teams going away. In 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, 10 of 32 teams went away to camp.
Besides the Bills, the teams going out of town for camp this summer are:
• Carolina, to Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC
• Dallas, to Oxnard, Calif.
• Kansas City, to Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo.
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• Pittsburgh, to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.
• The Los Angeles Rams, to the University of California at Irvine.
Business interests were the No. 1 factor when the Bills first decided to move training camp from Fredonia to suburban Rochester in 2000. The franchise was trying to cultivate a more regional market and drive more corporate support.
That’s still a benefit of going to Pittsford. But the No. 1 reason the Bills are going back to St. John Fisher’s coach Sean McDermott likes the team-building benefit of going on the road.
“I love going to St. John Fisher,” McDermott said. “I love going to Rochester and that area around Rochester. I really think it’s a cool place to be. I think it’s a great place to be that time of year, in particular. You have those warmer, hotter days at times which we need to get us in shape and then the cooler nights.
“I think it’s a great place for our team to come together, I really do. Some people don’t like going to training camp. I don’t think anybody really loves sleeping in college dorms. … That’s what we do and that’s how a team comes together through those shared experiences.”
“It kind of honestly just feels like college camp going away,” said tight end Dawson Knox. “You’re in the dorm rooms. It’s great mentally too to kind of get out of Buffalo, get out of your homes and kind of have that feeling of everyone’s kind of going to war together because those days are long and they’re tough.
“But when you spend them so closely with all the guys, it kind of brings the team together too,” Knox said.
It’s no surprise that McDermott is following a camp precedent set by one of his mentors, Chiefs coach Andy Reid, for whom McDermott worked in Philadelphia.
The Chiefs are in the last year of their contract with Missouri Western, but Reid has been a big advocate of going away to camp. The Eagles held training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., during Reid’s tenure.
“It’s a time for camaraderie and bringing things together as a team,” Reid said at the start of last year’s camp. “It’s hard work. There are no shortcuts obviously. … There’s this concentration of football that you take in here. You’re sleeping in a dorm, you’re eating over in the dorm and you’re doing all of that. You’re here and it’s football kind of 24/7.”
Two other teams are holding camp away from their headquarters but not out of town. Indianapolis goes to Westfield, Ind., a suburb about 20 miles from its headquarters. Jacksonville is building a new team facility and will hold camp at a nearby school in the city.
Sunday’s Bills practice is the first of 11 practices open to the public at training camp, and the 12th open practice will be held at Highmark Stadium at 5:30 pm Aug. 5.
The Bills also practice at 9:45 am Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Thursday is a day off.
Tickets for practice sessions are sold out.
In all, camp will span 17 days. The team breaks camp Aug. 11, two days before the first preseason game, at home against the Colts.
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