It’s been a long summer, but NFL Training Camp is finally here, and come Saturday the Red Sea will be flocking to University of Phoenix Stadium to get their first look at the 2017 version of the Arizona Cardinals.
So as a fan, what things should you not miss out on while attending camp this year? Sure there’s the usual, like “complaining about how bad the field is looking” or “wishing that the special feeling of being in Flagstaff for camp hadn’t left” but we want to go deeper.
While I do definitely recommend the NFL Kids Zone for those who have children (a fun obstacle course, ball toss and combine-style drills) this will be focusing on the fun that comes from going to a practice to watch the team.
Let’s take a look:
#5. Have a roster of the players and their numbers handy
The Cardinals have exploded in popularity since 2008, and while many fans have gotten to know the faces of the franchise such as the Honey Badger, David Johnson, Patrick Peterson, Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald, the one constant in the NFL is change.
Players change teams, positions (see Harlan Miller) and numbers. Sometimes they look alike, and there’s almost 60 new faces every year. Printing off a roster sheet online from the Cardinals website or a site like Ourlads.com is a great way to keep track of which receiver made that great catch, or who’s wearing Calais Campbell’s number now.
Another handy resource for this is the AZCardinals.com app, which has all the info you need on your smart phone.
#4. Get a bird’s eye view from the beer garden area
This one might be a little tricky, as the area has been on and off for limiting people to watch practices, but in recent years as long as you’re behind the railing, you’re fine. While it might not have the comfort of seats or a closer view, it gives a big overall picture to see the way the routes are run, where the Quarterbacks are looking and is a viewing experience like no other spot in the stadium.
It’s great, especially, for scouts and the times when playing 11-on-11 heading straight for where you’re standing in the endzone is definitely a treat.
#3. Talk smack with fans, even (or especially) those of other teams
There’s a lot of amazing Cardinals fans across the Valley. Use this time to maybe meet a new one or two, or meet up with fans from online forums or Twitter if you wish. Talk about your predictions, what you like, don’t like and what you think about the players’ upcoming seasons.
Is DJ gonna hit 1,000 rushing and receiving? Is Tyrann gonna bounce back? Is Nkemdiche gonna go off? There’s plenty to discuss!
Also, Arizona is a unique place. So many people migrate to the heat from other, colder and older portions of the country. Whether for work or retirement there are few true-blue Phoenix natives who aren’t from elsewhere or are a generation away from family from a different region.
Find some of those Lions fans who you can pump for fantasy information and see how they think their team might do, or perhaps talk to a Texans fan about Deshaun Watson versus Tom Savage, or tell a Jaguars fan who shows up what they can expect from Calais. Training camp isn’t game day; it’s a neutral environment.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll dish out some juicy info for you on their opinion of their teams as well.
Don’t be afraid to be open-minded a bit friendly when it comes to fans of other NFL teams.
Except for Seahawks fans.
With rule #1 out of the way—Moving on...
#2. Ditch school or work early to visit a practice
With permission, of course. It’s a fun feeling taking some time off from your regularly scheduled time frame to make the 2 PM practice. And with few people able to take time off during the week and school getting back in swing, some of the later practices can really turn into a more open, quieter affair.
That said, one thing you won’t want to miss will be...
#1 The Red-White Practice
Easily the highlight of training camp, the Cardinals take one practice out of the year in which the offense and defense play in a true scrimmage, or at least as close to one as you can get. The pads come out and it’s often the first padded practice and the fans fill the stadium.
It’s not a game day, but it’s the closest to that crackle and buzz of energy you’ll get to feel about the team all offseason. The players always do their best to show up and put on a great performance for the fans as well.
Each year, the crowd records seem to break so be sure to show up early if you want to get a good seat, as this is usually the only practice in which BOTH sides of the stadium will be open for seating.
This year’s practice will be Saturday July 29th at 2 PM at the UoP stadium, and it’s the event where the Pro Bowl jerseys from the previous year are presented. This year’s recipients will be Patrick Peterson, David Johnson, and as usual, Larry Fitzgerald.
So, Cardinals fans? Are you ready to Rise Up for your Cardinals and take a trip to training camp 2017, Red Sea?
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