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Your Buffalo Bills Training Camp Guide

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I decided the other day, following a round of golf at St. John Fisher College (home of Buffalo Bills training camp for the last ten years), that I was going to let every Bills fan in on a secret that many already know: training camp can be a lot of fun. I'll explain a routine trip to camp and offer some glimpses into my experiences.

Arrival
For most of you, there are two options: the bus or "stadium parking." The bus option is what I choose the majority of the time. You park at a local school in Pittsford, and the Monroe County Transit Authority charges a dollar for the ride to the St. John Fisher campus. Bus runs begin a couple hours before practice starts; there are lines if you get there before the buses begin running, and they form again about an hour prior to practice starting, when the most people are trying to board. Remember what school you are at!

You can also drive to the St. John Fisher campus, but parking is prohibited on the grounds. Instead, local entrepreneurs will rent you a piece of their lawn for upwards of 20 bucks for the practice, and the Park and Ride lot directly off the 490 is also open for a parking fee.

Entry
Admission is free to every practice, and for daytime practices you do not need a ticket. Night practices require tickets that you must print from Ticketmaster ahead of time; Ticketmaster will charge you a $1.75 processing fee. In years past, the ushers would collect the extra tickets and hand them out to unsuspecting patrons, but in years past you could get up to four tickets. I, like many others, got the full slate in case someone wanted to join me, and if I had extras I would leave them. This year, Ticketmaster limited fans to two tickets per transaction, so I have a feeling there will be less availability at the gate, though I doubt you will be turned away.

When you enter, you are made to walk through the vendor tent, where businesses from banks to newspapers hock their wares and deals for you. The second half of the tent is the Bills Store, with all the merchandise you would expect at the two stores in Orchard Park and Victor. Jerseys, hats, t-shirts, and lots of autograph materials are available. When you leave the tent, there are more vendors outside.

Practices
There are two practice areas: Growney Stadium and the adjacent grass fields. There is a sign at the entrance telling you where practice will be held that day. Growney Stadium provides the most seating, and is where the evening practices are held under the lights. You can also stand along the railings on the two long sides of the field. There are tents and roped off areas for VIPs, team families, season ticket holders, and guests of St. John Fisher. There isn't a bad seat in the stadium seating, but if you want to get up close and personal, the fence rails give you excellent opportunities to get a few feet away.

The practice fields are adjacent to Growney, but offer far less seating. There are bleachers spanning half the field on one side, as well as a few sets along the end zones on one end. You can stand along the fences, and there is a little seating on the ground on the far side of the field.

The practices themselves are broken up into warm-ups and stretching, position work, 7-on-7, full team work, and special teams were sprinkled in between offense/defense sessions. (At least, that's how it worked under Dick Jauron.) During position work, the players break up with their position coaches to different spots on the field. In the past, they have gone to the same spots every day, so if you come more than once you can position yourself near who you want to see that day.

Autographs
Players are available to sign before and after practice. If you arrive early, the best place to catch the players is exiting the locker room. Go into Growney Stadium and walk as far left as possible, standing along the fence. That is where the players will exit and enter the locker room. Some players won't sign autographs often. Others, like Paul Posluszny and Trent Edwards, will do it every day. Most of them like interacting with the fans, and they will spread out after practice, specifically if they have some time before their next structured time. Bring your own marker and something for them to sign, or you can purchase white team footballs or other memorabilia for the players to sign in the Bills Store.

Kids
There is a facility designed for kids if they get bored with the repetitiveness of practice. Games such as the football toss and an obstacle course are in the farthest corner of the St. John Fisher facility.

On August 7, the Bills are hosting a VIP day for kids. The "Junior Bills Backers VIP Day" runs from 2-6 and costs $14 for kids and $9 per parent. According to the team's website, the children will be given gift bags, snacks, prizes, and a chance to go out on the field and get player autographs. Visit the team's official site for more information or to order tickets.

Kids also have special access to players following each practice in the autograph zone. Each day, one position group goes into the tent and signs for kids 14 and under.

Miscellaneous
There are food vendors there, but expect the usual mark-up on the roast beef sandwich or slice of pizza. Sellers come around the practice facility with cold drinks for a few bucks, too. There are also ample bathroom facilities.

Fans can bring their own coolers, food, and drinks. Do not bring alcohol. (The only place alcohol is served is in the VIP tent, so don't expect to buy it, either.)

If there is rain or more serious weather, the team moves practices indoors, and once that happens the public portion is over for the day. Store the camp number (1-877-BB-TICKS) in your phone and call if you want up-to-the-minute information on cancellations.

Departure
By far the biggest pain in the butt is departure. At the end of practice, everyone leaves at around the same time, so there are long lines waiting for the bus. They have signs along the campus roadway where lines form to wait for your bus. They go back to specific schools, so don't get on the wrong bus. The return trip to your car is free.

Schedule

Dates

Times

Thursday, July 29

3:00 - 5:30 pm

Friday, July 30

7:00 - 9:00 pm*

Saturday, July 31

3:00 - 5:30 pm

Sunday, August 1

3:00 - 5:30 pm

Monday, August 2

7:00 - 9:00 pm*

Tuesday, August 3

3:00 - 5:30 pm

Wednesday, August 4

7:00 - 9:00 pm*

Thursday, August 5

3:00 - 5:30 pm

Friday, August 6

7:00 - 9:00 pm*

Saturday, August 7

3:00 - 5:30

Monday, August 9

7:00 - 9:00 pm*

Tuesday, August 10

3:00 - 5:30

Wednesday, August 11

7:00 - 9:00 pm*

Monday, August 16

7:00 - 9:00 pm*

Tuesday, August 17

3:00 - 5:30

Saturday, August 21

3:00 - 5:30

Sunday, August 22

7:00 - 9:00 pm*

Monday, August 23

3:00 - 5:30

Tuesday, August 24

9:30 - 11:30 am

Feel free to share your camp experiences, good and bad, or ask questions of folks like me who have experienced training camp first-hand. Keep an eye out for a Buffalo Rumblings gathering that will be announced soon, when final decisions have been made.