While teams across the NFL continue closing up their training camps and moving summer operations back to their year-round facility, the Eagles remain open for business.
The Eagles announced Tuesday theyve reached another one-year agreement with Lehigh University to conduct training camp on the schools sprawling campus in Bethlehem, Pa.
This is the 18th one-year contract the Eagles have worked out with Lehigh. The Eagles generally sign the deal just before the previously contracted camp begins.
The Eagles will open their 17th training camp at Lehigh on July 22.
Next years training camp will make Lehigh the longest-running summer home in franchise history. The Eagles camped in Hershey for 17 years during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Eagles remain an exception to the rule that has seen more and more NFL franchises shutting out fans and moving out of their summer college homes.
More than half of NFL teams now conduct training camp at their year-round facility. Those teams may open one or two practices to the public or have a scrimmage at their stadium, but virtually all practices are closed.
Only 13 of the NFLs 32 teams will have training camp on a college campus this year. As recently as 2007, 19 teams held camp at a college.
So the trend is clear. But why?
First of all, teams can save money by keeping everything in one place instead of essentially moving the entire franchise an hour or two away for three weeks. Most teams also have an indoor facility where they can practice during bad weather, while at a college campus they either have to have a walkthrough in a gym or cancel practice. Additionally, support services -- cafeteria, weight room, medical facilities -- are generally superior at the teams year-round facility than on a college campus.
But the Eagles remain the exception. They site the value of marketing the team regionally to the vast Lehigh Valley as one big reason to remain at Lehigh. And head coach Andy Reid is a strong believer in the bonding process that NFL players get when sequestered far from home and family.
This will be the 62nd consecutive year the Eagles will hold a training camp open to the public within an hour or so of Philadelphia.
In the early years of the franchise, they held practices at places such as Chestnut Hill Academy (1935), St. Josephs University (1939, 1943) and Saranac Lake (N.Y.) (1946-48).
But since 1951, theyve practiced at five locations -- Hershey (1951-67), Albright College in Reading (1968-72), Widener (1973-79), West Chester (1980-95) and Lehigh (since 1996).
The Eagles first practice open to the public this summer is July 23.
- more coming -