The football calendar unofficially resets in the month of July as all 32 NFL franchises gather for training camps in order to prepare for the preseason.
Translation—football is almost back in full force after a brief reprieve.
Training camps are always an intriguing time of year, especially for fans of those teams that do not practice inside and choose to brave the oft-sweltering heat to see how rookies, veterans, coaching staffs or some combination of the three mesh for the first time.
Here is a full listing of the 2014 training camp dates for all announced teams:
|Baltimore Ravens||Under Armour Performance Center||Owings Mills, Md.||July 23|
|Buffalo Bills||St. John Fisher College||Pittsford, N.Y.||July 18|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Paul Brown Stadium||Cincinnati, Ohio||July 23|
|Cleveland Browns||Cleveland Browns Training Facility||Berea, Ohio||July 25|
|Denver Broncos||Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre||Dove Valley, Colo.||July 23|
|Houston Texans||Methodist Training Center||Houston, Texas||July 25|
|Indianapolis Colts||Anderson University||Anderson, Ind.||July 23|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields||Jacksonville, Fla.||July 24|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Missouri Western State University||St. Joseph, Mo.||July 23|
|Miami Dolphins||Miami Dolphins Training Facility||Davie, Fla.||July 20|
|New England Patriots||Gillette Stadium||Foxboro, Mass.||July 23|
|New York Jets||SUNY Cortland||Cortland, N.Y.||July 23|
|Oakland Raiders||Napa Valley Marriott||Napa, Calif.||July 24|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Saint Vincent College||Latrobe, Pa.||July 25|
|San Diego Chargers||Chargers Park||San Diego, Calif.||July 23|
|Tennessee Titans||Baptist Sports Park||Nashville, Tenn.||July 25|
|Arizona Cardinals||University of Phoenix Stadium||Glendale, Ariz.||July 25|
|Atlanta Falcons||Atlanta Falcons Training Facility||Flowery Branch, Ga.||July 24|
|Carolina Panthers||Wofford College||Spartanburg, S.C.||July 24|
|Chicago Bears||Olivet Nazarene University||Bourbonnais, Ill.||July 24|
|Dallas Cowboys||River Ridge Playing Fields||Oxnard, Calif.||July 22|
|Detroit Lions||Detroit Lions Training Facility||Allen Park, Mich.||July 27|
|Green Bay Packers||St. Norbert College||Green Bay, Wis.||July 25|
|Minnesota Vikings||Minnesota State University, Mankato||Mankato, Minn.||July 24|
|New Orleans Saints||The Greenbrier||White Silver Springs, WV||July 24|
|New York Giants||Timex Performance Center||East Rutherford, N.J.||July 21|
|Philadelphia Eagles||NovaCare Complex||Philadelphia, Pa.||July 25|
|St. Louis Rams||Russell Athletic Training Center||Earth City, Mo.||July 24|
|San Francisco 49ers||Marie P. DeBartolo Sports Center||Santa Clara, Calif.||July 23|
|Seattle Seahawks||Virginia Mason Athletic Center||Renton, Wash.||July 24|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||One Buccaneer Place||Tampa, Fla.||July 25|
|Washington Redskins||Bon Secours Training Center||Richmond, Va.||July 23|
Sporting News and ESPN
Noteworthy Camp Storylines to Watch
The Johnny Manziel Show
For 15 years and running, the Cleveland Browns have been the most "meh" franchise in the NFL. While the fanbase is one of the most loyal in all of sports—and the hardcore segments certainly show up at training camp no matter what—the spectacle that is preseason work in Berea, Ohio, is usually tiny in stature.
Johnny Football's arrival in Cleveland has drawn so much attention to the Browns that the franchise has asked fans to register for training camp. Per ESPN's Tony Grossi, depending on how it shakes out, Browns training camp may have to move locations in future years. As Grossi notes, past record attendance figures have been, well, reserved:
Even the two successful blips of the expansion era – the lone playoff season in 2002 and the unexpected, high-scoring, 10-6 season of 2007 -- produced nothing more than yawns at the following training camps.
Unofficially, the record average attendance at the Berea training camp is 2,652 in 2012. Last year, the figure was 2,475. A flash crowd of 4,466 showed up last July 28, on a Sunday, and that stands as the record attendance at the Berea facility.
It's important to watch how Manziel impacts camp itself, but fans should more importantly monitor how the Texas A&M product handles his newfound pro-level celebrity and how it impacts the most difficult transition of his life.
How he and the Browns handle the situation may dictate the fate of the franchise for the next few years.
The Best Division in Football
There is no debate. As things currently stand, the NFC West is easily the best division in football.
The Seattle Seahawks stormed to a Super Bowl triumph last year, while the San Francisco 49ers were on the cusp of an appearance and have an equally-talented roster. In a notable effort, the Arizona Cardinals missed the playoffs despite 10 wins and the St. Louis Rams were one Sam Bradford injury away from being .500.
NFL Network's Marc Sessler helps to put the division's dominance into perspective:
NFC West thought: 49ers were one game away from the SB during a season in which their FB was the team's third leading receiver.— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) May 30, 2014
For Seattle, the training camp task is to not become complacent. San Francisco must overcome various levels of adversity to remain in the hunt, while Arizona and St. Louis need to stay the course defensively and take the next step on the offensive side of the ball.
Easier said than done on all counts, but to expect anything less than thrilling camps and plenty of barbs between fierce rivals this summer is preposterous.
Remember, a rule was passed last year that means one team every year, without exception, must host HBO's Hard Knocks.
Thanks to the rules—a playoff appearance in the past two seasons, prior feature on the show or a new head coach—there were 24 teams exempt from an automatic selection.
Those teams that could have been drafted? Buffalo, Chicago, Arizona, New York Giants, Jacksonville, Oakland, St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
Fortunately for those eligible, the Atlanta Falcons stepped to the plate and took one for the team—and their fans.
Normally one of the most reserved coaches in the league, Mike Smith cited benefits of the undertaking, per ESPN's Vaughn McClure:
We are looking forward to connecting with our fans across the country as the program chronicles our 2014 training camp. The series will give fans a behind the scenes look at the competition between players as we build our roster and prepare for the season. We are looking forward to the start of camp in late July.
The folks set to appear on the show certainly have a high entertainment value. Star receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White should make for a good time, especially while the former battles back from a season-ending injury.
Outside of the obvious attempt to get over the hump, the subtle switch to a 3-4 defense, highlighted by the arrival of tackle Paul Soliai, will be a highlight—as will a wealth of new faces, most notably new right tackle Jake Matthews.
Atlanta's willingness to appear on the show takes away some previously interesting possibilities such as seeing Gus Bradley's rebuild of the Jaguars with a new franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles, or an inside peek at the fabled Steelers organization during trying times.
Alas, Hard Knocks is sure to be a highlight of the NFL offseason once again.