Everyone is 0-0 as camps produce their annual surge of optimism at all 32 club sites.
On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and New York Jets complete the initial quintet of camp openings. The Bucs and Jets play in the American Bowl in Tokyo, Japan on August 2, followed by the Chiefs against the Packers in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Monday night, August 4.
Those games are the first two of 11 preseason contests that will be nationally televised. Fans can watch the building of NFL rosters, and increasingly, they can witness that preparation closer to home. A "mini-trend" in the NFL has a growing number of teams moving their training camps to or near their permanent home bases.
"We are determined to bring the 49ers to our fans," says San Francisco general manager TERRY DONAHUE.
The ‘Niners are one of five teams this year that have switched their camps to their home bases, joining the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins.
Closer to home means more access for local fans:
· The 49ers will go "back in time" this summer when they hold a night practice at Kezar Stadium in
San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, their original home from 1946-70. They will make an entire
Six NFL teams – Denver, New England, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington -- will encamp in new training sites this year. Many clubs will return to the familiar venues where they have spent their summer months for years.
The NFL training camp longevity king? The Green Bay Packers will return on July 18 for their 45th consecutive summer at St. Norbert College in DePere, Wisconsin. The longest active training camp tenures:
|Green Bay Packers||St. Norbert College||DePere, Wisconsin||45|
|Minnesota Vikings||Minnesota State, Mankato||Mankato, Minnesota||37|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||St. Vincent College||Latrobe, Pennsylvania||37|
|New York Jets||Hofstra University||Hempstead, New York||35|
Teams make a day of it, having their players ride the city's famous cable cars before the game, and then bring in such Kezar favorites as R.C. (Alley Oop) Owens, Bob St. Clair and Y.A. Title among others. "This is just the beginning," says GM Donahue of future 49ers training camp plans for the fans.· The Jacksonville Jaguars have built bleachers for 2,250 fans at their new training fields next to their home, ALLTEL Stadium. New Jaguars head coach JACK DEL RIO has scheduled 30-minute autograph sessions with players and coaches for fans after the team's August 1 scrimmage and August 2 mock game.· The Buccaneers – with their Super Bowl trophy gleaming brightly – expect to exceed the 40,000 total of fans that attended the team's first camp at Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in 2002. Special festivities are planned to salute the team. "Fan support was phenomenal last year," says Buccaneers Executive Vice President JOEL GLAZER.· The Buffalo Bills sold out tickets for their two Monday night scrimmages in July and August in 30 minutes on July 14. After each session, the entire team is available for autographs.
These kinds of activities ratchet up an already-feverish fan anticipation of the NFL season.
How feverish? Last year, the Columbus Dispatch conducted a poll that asked the question, "Which sports preseason games do you most prefer to watch?" A whopping 80.9 percent responded "the NFL," by far topping exhibition baseball (7.9), the NHL (7.9) and NBA (3.8).
Of course, fans will have a lot of questions of their own as camps open.
Can the Bucs repeat? Will RICH GANNON lead the Raiders to another Super Bowl? Can the exciting MICHAEL VICK take the Falcons back to the playoffs and beyond the divisional round? Will HERMAN EDWARDS lead the Jets to their third playoff berth in as many years as the team's head coach? Will JAKE PLUMMER help bring the Broncos back to the playoffs? And ditto for JUNIOR SEAU for the Dolphins?
The answers start to formulate during training camps and the NFL preseason schedule.
The Bucs open defense of their title in their first American Bowl ever when they face the Jets – also in their inaugural American Bowl – in Tokyo on Saturday, August 2. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 in the U.S. at 5:00 AM ET, and re-aired at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN.
From August 2-4, it is an "NFL Homecoming Weekend" in Canton, Ohio, birthplace of pro football, as the renovated Pro Football Hall of Fame kicks off its 40th anniversary celebration by inviting all Hall of Famers to a weekend of festivities.
Such pro football luminaries as CHUCK BEDNARIK, GEORGE BLANDA, ART DONOVAN, LEROY KELLY, STEVE LARGENT, BOBBY MITCHELL, MERLIN OLSEN, GALE SAYERS and DON SHULA, among others, will make the Hall's annual induction ceremonies – on an enlarged stage at Canton's Fawcett Stadium – more memorable than ever.
They will salute the newest members of their fraternity – the 2003 Hall of Fame Class: MARCUS ALLEN, ELVIN BETHEA, JOE DE LAMIELLEURE, JAMES LOFTON and HANK STRAM.
To top off the weekend, the Chiefs and Packers – participants in the first Super Bowl in 1967 – will meet in the Hall of Fame Game on Monday night on ABC-TV at 8:00 PM ET.
NFL football is back. "We're anxious to get started," says the Jaguars' Del Rio.
You got that right, Jack!
2003 NFL PRESEASON NATIONAL TELEVISION SCHEDULE
(All times ET)
|Saturday, August 2||American Bowl, Tokyo, Japan||5:00 AM||ESPN2|
|New York Jets vs. Tampa Bay||8:00 PM||ESPN (Re-air)|
|Monday, August 4||Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, Canton, Ohio||8:00 PM||ABC|
|Green Bay vs. Kansas City|
|Thursday, August 7||NY Giants at New England||8:00 PM||ESPN|
|Monday, August 11||Philadelphia at New Orleans||8:00 PM||ESPN|
|Thursday, August 14||Oakland at San Francisco||8:00 PM||FOX|
|Friday, August 15||Green Bay at Cleveland||8:00 PM||CBS|
|Saturday, August 16||Buffalo at Tennessee||8:00 PM||ESPN|
|Monday, August 18||Tampa Bay at St. Louis||8:00 PM||ABC|
|Thursday, August 21||Dallas at Pittsburgh||8:00 PM||FOX|
|Friday, August 22||Atlanta at Miami||8:00 PM||CBS|
|Monday, August 25||Indianapolis at Denver||8:00 PM||ABC|
2003 NFL TRAINING CAMPS LOCATIONS & REPORTING DATES
|Baltimore||McDaniel College||Westminster, MD||July 27||July 27|
|Buffalo||St. John Fisher College||Pittsford, NY||July 23||July 26|
|Cincinnati||Georgetown College||Georgetown, KY||July 27||July 27|
|Cleveland||Cleveland Browns Training Facility||Berea, OH||July 21||July 25|
|Denver||Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Centre||Englewood, CO||July 25||July 25|
|Houston||Reliant Park||Houston, TX||July 25||July 25|
|Indianapolis||Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology||Terre Haute, IN||July 27||July 27|
|Jacksonville||ALLTEL Stadium||Jacksonville, FL||July 25||July 25|
|Kansas City||University of Wisconsin-River Falls||River Falls, WI||July 20||July 20|
|Miami||Nova Southeastern University||Davie, FL||July 24||July 24|
|New England||Gillette Stadium||Foxboro, MA||July 20||July 23|
|NY Jets||Hofstra University||Hempstead, NY||July 20||July 20|
|Oakland||Napa Valley Marriott||Napa Valley, CA||July 24||July 24|
|Pittsburgh||Saint Vincent College||Latrobe, PA||July 25||July 25|
Cal State Dominguez Hills
|Carson, CA||July 22||July 25|
|Tennessee||Tennessee Titans Practice Facility||Nashville, TN||July 24||July 25|
|Arizona||Northern Arizona University||Flagstaff, AZ||July 25||July 25|
|Atlanta||Furman University||Greenville, SC||July 25||July 25|
|Carolina||Wofford College||Spartanburg, SC||July 25||July 25|
|Chicago||Olivet Nazarene University||Bourbonnais, IL||July 25||July 25|
|Dallas||Alamodome & San Antonio Riverwalk Marriott||San Antonio, TX||July 25||July 25|
|Detroit||Detroit Lions Training Facility||Allen Park, MI||July 23||July 26|
|Green Bay||St. Norbert College||DePere, WI||July 18||July 20|
|Minnesota||Minnesota State University||Mankato, MN||July 25||July 25|
|New Orleans||New Orleans Saints Complex||Metairie, LA||July 25||July 25|
|N.Y. Giants||University at Albany||Albany, NY||July 24||July 24|
|Philadelphia||Lehigh University||Bethlehem, PA||July 25||July 28|
|St. Louis||Western Illinois University||Macomb, IL||July 24||July 24|
|San Francisco||San Francisco 49ers Complex||Santa Clara, CA||July 25||July 25|
|Seattle||Eastern Washington University||Cheney, WA||July 23||July 25|
|Tampa Bay||Disney's Wide World of Sports||Lake Buena Vista, FL||July 18||July 18|
|Washington||Redskins Park||Ashburn, VA||July 27||July 27|
IMPORTANT DATES OF 2003 NFL SEASON
|Mid-July||Preseason training camps open.|
|July 22||Signing period ends at 4:00 PM ET for unrestricted free agents to whom June 1 tender was made by old club, transition players, and franchise players who are eligible to receive offer sheets. After this date and through 4:00 PM ET on November 11, old club has exclusive negotiating rights to these players.|
|August 2||American Bowl, Tokyo, Japan: NY Jets vs. Tampa Bay.|
|August 2-4||Pro Football Hall of Fame Weekend.|
|August 4||Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, Canton, Ohio: Green Bay vs. Kansas City.|
|August 5||If a drafted rookie has not signed with his club by this date, he may not be traded to any other club in 2003.|
|August 5||Deadline for players under contract to report in order to earn a season of free agency credit.|
|August 7-11||First preseason weekend.|
|August 9-13||Deadline for club to provide written notice to certain unsigned players and the NFLPA of its intent to place them on the exempt list if they fail to report no later than one day prior to the club's second preseason game. Any player who fails to report prior to the deadline will be ineligible to play or receive compensation for at least three games (preseason or regular season) from the time that he reports.|
|August 14-18||Second preseason weekend.|
|August 21-25||Third preseason weekend.|
|August 26||Roster cutdown to maximum of 65 players on active list by 4:00 PM ET.|
|August 27-29||Fourth preseason weekend.|
|August 31||Roster cutdown to maximum of 53 players on active/inactive list by 4:00 PM ET. Exemptions granted to NFL Europe League players expire at this time. Clubs may dress minimum of 42 and maximum of 45 players and third quarterback for each regular-season and postseason game.|
|September 1||After 12:00 PM ET, clubs may establish a practice squad of five players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free agency credit or who were on the active/inactive list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than two seasons.|
|September 4-8||Kickoff 2003 Weekend.|
|September 23||Priority on multiple waiver claims is now based on the current season's standing.|
|October 14||All trading ends at 4:00 PM ET.|
|November 11||Deadline for clubs to sign by 4:00 PM ET their unsigned franchise and transition players. If still unsigned after this date, such players are prohibited from playing in NFL in 2003.|
|November 11||Deadline for clubs to sign by 4:00 PM ET their unrestricted free agents to whom June 1 tender was made. If still unsigned after this date, such players are prohibited from playing in NFL in 2003.|
|November 11||Deadline for clubs to sign by 4:00 PM ET their restricted free agents to whom June 1 tender was made. If such players remain unsigned, they are prohibited from playing in NFL in 2003.|
|November 11||Deadline for clubs to sign drafted players by 4:00 PM ET. If such players remain unsigned, they are prohibited from playing in NFL in 2003.|
|December 27-28||Final regular-season weekend.|
|January 3-4||Wild Card Weekend.|
|January 10-11||Divisional Playoffs.|
|January 18||AFC and NFC Championship Games.|
|February 1||Super Bowl XXXVIII, Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas.|
|February 8||AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, Honolulu, Hawaii|