Jets players reported Wednesday afternoon to SUNY Cortland in Cortland, NY to begin training camp for their first practice on Thursday, July 24 at 10 a.m.
For most football fans, it is all about the sixteen regular seasons games. But for my money, I love Jets training camp. I love watching young players improve from year to year, to see NFLers work on technique and skill up close, witness who the vocal leaders are of any position group and watch what wrinkles the coaches work into the play packages. But most of all, I love to see players fighting for roster spots and working to make every rep count before the team winnows the roster from 90 players to just 53.
To me, it is thrilling.
During practice days, the team trains on two practice fields at the west end of the SUNY Cortland campus. Signage is well marked as you enter town from any highway exit of I-81 and the parking is a short walk to the fields. On the way, be sure to check out the Jets Fan Fest which has souvenirs and activities for kids.
As far as watching the players? The areas where fans can roam are slimmer than at Mets camp, but there's generally plenty of room to get close to the fence and watch the team. There are small sets of stands set up which would provide good perspective on both fields, and the best viewing spots where you won't have to move much would be along the sidelines on the field where the filming towers are set up for the day. Generally, only one field gets the towers and that's the field where they do offense on defensive scrimmaging toward the end of practice, and that's generally the most exciting part of the practice.
For the uninitiated, practice is an ever broadening confluence. Players start with stretches and warm-ups. Then do some warm up work with their position group. The warm-ups turn into drills that might include another position group (ie. quarterbacks throwing to receivers) and then those drills begin to include opposing players (ie. quarterbacks throwing to receivers with defensive backs in coverage) until it is full eleven-on-eleven scrimmaging.
Also, be sure to check out which players are on the small side field on the bike or doing conditioning work. It might tell you who is dealing with injuries and who likely won't be practicing. This year I've christened the conditioning field The Santonio Holmes Memorial Field. No, not really.
Look for these, it's on the field where the best parts of practice will be
Looking for autographs? Players sign at the conclusion of practice. Different position groups have weight training or meetings on different days, so you generally will see many players of the same position on a given day spending time signing for fans. While players generally will sign all over the fields, your best bet may be to move to the eastern (restricted and high-fenced) side of the field, as players walk back east to their facilities after practice ends.
A local favorite, be sure to get a piece of Mom's Pie.
Also, since there's no more two-a-day practices, there is a lot of down time in Cortland - especially for folks who come in for more than a day. Since the town is less than an hour to Syracuse and many other excellent sites in the Central New York region, I've put together a Foursquare list of locations of interest, along with some of the favorite watering holes close to campus of coaches, players and media.