Eagles Embrace Staying Home
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - It's hardly an anomaly in the 2016 NFL but the Eagles decision to keep training camp "home" at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia is a change for first-year head coach Doug Pederson.
Pederson, of course, is a branch off the Andy Reid-coaching tree and the former Eagles and current Kansas City mentor has always believed in packing up and taking training camp on the road, which meant Lehigh University when "Big Red" was in Philly and Missouri Western State University now that he calls the "Show Me State" home.
According to Pederson he was given carte blanche when it came to where he wanted to hold his inaugural training camp but a return to Lehigh wasn't in the cards.
“It was presented to me and it was my decision,” the coach claimed when speaking at the team's minicamp back in June. “After I was hired, we sat down and they told me what they did the past three years. I sat down and looked at it. It’s not a bad situation, but why pack your office up and move?”
Building camaraderie and getting way from distractions is how most coaches who advocate leaving their team facilities would answer that rhetorical question and Pederson admitted there is something to that but when weighing the pros and cons he felt a first-class NFL facility is always the best place to prepare.
“I did enjoy going away for the three weeks when I was (in Kansas City). It was like summer camp, we were staying in the dorms,” Pederson said. “Being able to come to your office every day and not having to put it in boxes, you don’t have to go through the; ‘I forgot that, I forgot this.’ You can come right off the practice field and your film is ready to go.”
This year, more almost 60 percent of NFL teams (19 of 32) will be staying home for training camp, a sharp increase from the turn of the century when only five of 31 (16 percent) did it.
“It’s a great set-up here at home,” Pederson said. “I like the idea of doing it right here in our backyard where we are comfortable. That part makes it nice. And the way the setup is here, it’s awesome.”
It's not awesome for everyone, though, because the team's fans have far less access to their favorite team when you compare it to the old days on college campuses, whether it was West Chester or Lehigh.
When the Eagles built the NovaCare Complex, which is a stone's throw away from Lincoln Financial Field up Pattison Avenue and across Broad Street, the team promised it would not hold any public practices. At NovaCare, only sponsors and select season-ticket holders get to view practice on any given day.
"The only negative is the fact that it is not open to the public,” Pederson admitted. “That’s the downside."
To counteract that the Eagles will be hosting two open practices at the Linc with free admission. The first one will take place on July 31 at 10:00 a.m and the final one will be two weeks later, August 14 at 7:00 p.m.
The Packers remain the kings of training-camp tradition, as their preparation for the '16 season will be at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin for the 59th consecutive year. That's followed by Minnesota, which has trained at Minnesota State-Mankato for 51 years, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have also logged 51 years at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
The Vikings, however, are building a new, state-of-art team headquarters in Eagan, Minn., which will likely end their extended stay in Mankato in the coming years.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen