It is an annual right of passage for NFL fans similar to the changing of the seasons.
Training camp marks the official start of the upcoming season, and the Jacksonville Jaguars released their official practice schedule this week.
For seasoned veterans of training camp, the routine is familiar and ritualistic. But, for those who have never attended training camp practices, the questions vary from where to park to what can be brought to the practice facilities.
As a service to my fellow Jaguar fans, I will do my best to assist you in making the training camp experience a pleasurable one by anticipating your questions and answering them now. For those questions not listed, I will happily provide you with answers or advice as they come in to Bleacher Report. After spending most of the past seven years attending training camp, I have developed a good set of guidelines to live by when heading to these practices.
Q—Where is the Jaguar's practice facility?
BR—For those familiar with the layout of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, the practice fields are located north west of the stadium adjacent to Gate 2, beside parking lots N and P.
Q—Does it cost anything to attend training camp practice sessions?
BR—No, there is no charge to attend the practices. Parking is also free in lots N and P.
Q—Can I bring a cooler to the practices?
BR—No. You are allowed to bring in beverages or food, but coolers are not allowed. There are vendors there selling food and beverages at discounted prices.
Q—Can I bring a lawn chair?
BR—No. There is seating capacity for more than 2,000 fans at the practice facility, and standing room areas surrounding the east and north sides of the fields.
Q—Can I buy Jaguars merchandise or season tickets at training camp?
BR—Yes. The Jaguars do have vendors set up to sell Jaguar clothing, collectibles, media guides, and other product. There is also a tent set up to give fans an opportunity to get information about, or to purchase, season tickets. There is also a tent set up for fans to join the Jacksonville Jaguars Booster Club during some sessions of training camp.
Q—Are the practice sessions really crowded?
BR—That depends on when you plan on attending practices. Normally, the first practice session on the first day is well attended, as is the first night practice when the players put on pads. Traditionally, that practice is kicked off with a spirited Oklahoma Drill that has become a huge fan favorite. Aside from those two practice sessions and the scrimmage inside the stadium at the end of the first week, the crowds are steady but not overwhelming.
Q—What would be the best time for me to get player and coach autographs?
BR - Autograph seekers normally think the best time to come out is early in training camp. However, the early sessions are normally the most crowded. The Jaguars mandate that the players sign autographs on the way out of the practice facility on their way back to the stadium. Some players are more accommodating than others, but in most instances you can get the majority of the team to sign your merchandise if you remain patient. Players are not permitted to sign autographs prior to practice sessions.
Q—Which practices are a waste of time to attend?
BR—If the schedule says "special teams only", go to the beach or play golf. These sessions are normally half-speed practices, and their focus is on player responsibilities during special teams. Many of the players that you would want to see do not even come out of the stadium for these sessions opting to get additional attention from the training staff, or to sit in on position unit meetings. If you happen to be a kicker or punter geek, or you are a huge fan of long snappers, then you have four special practices to satisfy your tastes.
Q—Can I bring a camera?
BR - Yes, still photography is permitted. The same restrictions that apply for games applies at training camp. If the lens is more than 6" long, it's not allowed. Video cameras are not permitted at practices. I've seen the rent-a-cops actually come up into the bleachers to check the length of some lenses, so they do enforce the rules.
Q—Is there a lot of contact during the practices?
BR - This is where things get a little fuzzy. Fans get excited about the prospect for contact when the first padded practice kicks off with the Oklahoma Drills. However, the reality is that the team is not allowing full-speed contact, so many fans walk away disappointed in what they see when the pads do go on. The risk of injury is a significant concern.
For fans of trench warfare, the evaluation process for both lines does increase greatly when the players are in pads, because they do fully engage, even though they may not take a play all the way to the ground. You can get a good idea of footwork, techniques, and pure physical force from these padded practices.
When they say these are contact drills, try to set the correct expectations. It is contact, but they are not out there decapitating their teammates. They do not tackle the skill players or sack the quarterbacks.
As long as you go into practices understanding what contact means in a camp environment, you will be happy with the action on the field.
Q—How close are we when we watch practice?
BR—In seasons past, the Jaguars loved to practice at least one practice field apart from the fans, and sometimes at then far end of the facility. Tom Coughlin was notorious for making certain that if you wanted to watch camp, you needed binoculars.
This year, the Jaguars have moved the bleachers out to the field turf surface so that fans can get closer to the natural grass fields. This should get folks much closer to the action depending on where they put the bleachers precisely.
Q—Is August 13 the official end of training camp?
BR—No. That is the official end of the portion of training camp that is open to the public. The team will continue in camp mode for a while longer, leading up to the final roster cuts.
If you have any additional questions about training camp that you would like answered, feel free to post them here and I will do my best to respond if I can, or I will get you the answers.
Here is a schedule for training camp this year (make note of the special teams only sessions!).
August 2: Players Report
August 3: 10:45 a.m. and 7 p.m.
August 4: 10:45 a.m. (special teams only) and 7 p.m.
August 5 10:45 a.m. and 7 p.m.
August 6: 10:45 a.m. (special teams only) and 7 p.m.
August. 7: 10:45 a.m. and 7 p.m.
August 8: 10:45 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. scrimmage at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
August 10: 9 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. (special teams only)
August 11: 9 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.
August 12: 9 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. (special teams only)
August 13: 9 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.