Vic Fangio sees value in keeping camp practices open

The Denver Broncos were the first team to fully open training camp, with both veterans and rookies reporting Wednesday. The Broncos also boast the distinction of holding 19 training camp practices open to the public, most in the NFL.

While some teams have curtailed the availability of their training camp practices, the Broncos, who hold all but one of their open sessions at UCHealth Training Center, in Englewood, Colo., have made sure fans still have access.

New coach Vic Fangio underscored the positives of allowing fans to practice during camp.

"I didn't realize we had the most," Fangio said Wednesday, via the team's official transcript. "I think it's good to have the fans out here. The history of the NFL -- you had to go to college campuses back in the day because the facilities didn't look like this. When I first went to the Saints in the mid 80s, we had an 80-yard grass field, OK? We had no cafeteria. Guys would go to a greasy deli for lunch right across the street. You were forced to go to small college campuses to have your two-a-days because they had a cafeteria, because they had classrooms and because they had dorms to sleep in. A byproduct of that was that fans could come and watch.

"I think one of the small things that have driven the NFL to being the most popular sport in the country is that you let people come watch practice. People that maybe can't afford to go to the game. Maybe get and an autograph from a player. Maybe a player shakes their hand or throws them a sweatband or a glove. You do that with a young person, you've got a fan for life and football has a fan for life. There is more to be gained out of that than any advertising slogan or any commercial that you put on TV. I think it is a good thing, and I think I'll embrace it and the players will embrace it. I wish there could be more of them here, but I think about half or less of the NFL now doesn't go to college campuses and doesn't have the world of thought to have people at their facility to watch practice. I think it's a little bit of a negative."

Fangio is spot on.

While logistics make it difficult for some teams to make their practices available to the public, in a league far too enamored with secrecy, the dwindling of open training camp practices is a disappointing trend.

Attending NFL games is an expensive proposition that not all fans can afford. Going to training camp was one way many who connect with their local team could still experience watching players they root for in person without breaking the bank. For example, parents with six children who couldn't afford to take the entire family to a regular-season game might have, in the past, taken everyone to see their favorite team during open training camp practices. The fewer camps are open to the public, the less chance for these interactions.

With the NFL seemingly bent on curtailing preseason games eventually, the chance for those fans who cannot shell out big bucks to see their favorite teams (many preseason tickets are given away or sold at a fraction of the cost) will be truncated even further, leaving training camps as one of the last bastions of opportunity for some, and further restrict player-fan interaction.

The Broncos and Fangio deserve kudos for making sure that relationship with the fans -- especially those less fortunate -- isn't overlooked.

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