EDITOR'S NOTE:Texans fan Alan J. Burge will continue to write a "Voice of the Fan" column throughout the 2005 season. His latest installment is below. Alan's views do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.
Training camp tips
A couple of days ago I was listening to Andrew Siciliano who was sitting in for Jim Rome on the nationally syndicated radio talk show The Jungle. In one of his monologues, Siciliano said something to the effect, "well it's almost July and that can only mean one thing: It's trade rumor time in Major League Baseball." Say what?
While sports fans in LaLa land might enjoy passing the time with such idle chit chat, this is Texas and turning the calendar to July in Texas basically means two things: a) it's so hot you could slow cook a brisket on the hood of your truck, and b) NFL training camp is almost here!
One of the best decisions made years ago by the Texans organization was to construct a world-class training facility and hold training camps right here in Houston. It's a fringe benefit to Texans fans designed to provide an opportunity for Texans fans of all ages to connect with their team in person, as opposed to reading about them practicing in foreign places like San Angelo or Oxnard.
Having attended several of the public training camp sessions over the last three years, I thought I'd offer some tips to those who have yet to experience this "must-do" for all Texans fans.
First things first -- get tickets. The free tickets will be available through Ticketmaster on Saturday, July 16, and there's typically a limit of eight total tickets per person. Every session I've attended has been full or near capacity so if you're serious about attending one or more of the sessions it's best to get your tickets as soon as you can. If you are unable to get tickets through Ticketmaster, a few tickets are usually floating around on the various Texans message board communities during camp.
After you get your tickets, get an up-to-date Texans roster/depth chart from houstontexans.com or ourlads.com and "learn the team" if you haven't already. Most Texans fans know the starters but there's a lot of talented players, including six new draft choices, competing for roster spots this season. Heading out to camp knowing the numbers, names, and faces will help make your training camp experience much more enjoyable.
Get there early. Parking is at the north end of the practice facility, in the lot across McNee Rd. To get there, take I-610 to Kirby Dr., go north on Kirby for a few blocks and the practice facility will be on your left across the street from Reliant Stadium. Look for the "bubble," you can't miss it. Take a left on McNee and parking is on your right. Gates typically open at 6:00 for the night practices and a small line will start forming outside the gate of the practice facility around 5:30.
Once you get inside the gate, you can mingle about the various booths or go straight inside and claim a seat. Seating is first come-first served and is restricted to a set of bleachers along the east sideline. There is also a small area in the north end zone to stand and watch the practices. The south end zone is restricted to player's families, VIPs, etc. Autograph sessions occur after practices at the south end of the field and the lines form early. TORO and the cheerleaders usually roam the areas behind the bleachers during practice.
Don't forget your sunglasses. The sun-sensitive may even need a little sunscreen because you will be staring into a pretty fierce setting sun until about 8:00 or so. After the sun sets, it's very pleasant out there – at least for the fans.
Watch the players ride over to the practice facility in the golf cart trains. This is one advantage of getting there early or staying late. There is limited locker room space at the training facility so the players get dressed at Reliant and ride golf carts across the footbridges over Kirby. Every once in a while, you can get close enough to the players to offer words of encouragement or snap a picture.
Binoculars will help you spot your favorite players and coaches on the field and on the far sideline. Find Coach Capers and the other coaches and watch them put the rookies through their paces.
Take a camera. Still-cameras are allowed but leave the video cameras at home.
Enjoy the camaraderie of other Texans fans.
Enjoy the action on the practice field. The sessions start with stretching exercises, special teams activity, and various drills on offense and defense. Coach Capers is very precise in his timing and everything is scripted to the minute. Over the two-hour period you will see a variety of drills including 7 on 7, 9 on 7, 11 on 11, and 2-minute drills involving almost every player on the roster. It's a perfect time to get an early look at the new draft choices and free agents in action.
Afterward, don't be in a hurry to leave. The final horn blows at 9:00 p.m. and some players mingle around a bit after practice. As the players work their way back to Reliant after practice, there's always the possibility of a photo opportunity or autograph from a player. Media types usually conduct interviews of players on the field after practice and people watching can be entertaining.
After all is done, please drive safely on your way home. Enjoy!