It appears that the writing is on the wall for the future of the Buffalo Bills and their annual trip to Pittsford, NY for training camp. The continued decrease in number of camp days at St. John Fisher College indicate that the Bills may be traveling east for the last time this year. Only 8 camp dates are open to the public this year, down from 11 last year, which was fewer than the 13 in Sean McDermott’s first year as head coach.
We have seen a change in Sean McDermott’s training camp approach over the past 3 years. He has totally eliminated the widely popular under-the-lights night practices that would draw a few thousand fans. In fact, the one night practice that they still have is back in Buffalo at New Era Field.
As a comparison, in Rex Ryan’s final training camp as coach the Bills held 16 practices for fans, 5 of which were night practices. Sean McDermott, the ultimate anti-Rex, would rather focus on what he believes is best for his players, even if that means eliminating the night practices and the electric buzz that surrounded them, not practicing on the artificial turf (which has the best seating at the college). Doing what is best for players is what Sean McDermott mentioned to defend the record number of practices at the college.
“It’s an ongoing evaluation. if it weren’t, we wouldn’t be doing our collective jobs because of what we now have here. The needs of the modern athlete change every day. We have to make sure we are giving them every chance to become the best versions of themselves. Right now, we feel as an organization going away is still –we’re still doing that.”
Obviously, when McDermott references “what we now have here”, he is referring to the brand new $18 million sports performance center that has recently opened at One Bills Drive. The center is already considered one of the best training facilities in the NFL. It would make sense that the Bills stay home in Buffalo for the duration of the summer given the access to the new facility. Why not have your players train daily at a state-of-the-art facility, if they have the ability. It makes sense to me that what would give the Bills players “every chance to become the best versions of themselves” is to stay in Orchard Park for the summer. McDermott also went on to speak of the challenges and limitations that Fisher has, due to the two grass fields not being in an ideal location and having to rotate between them throughout practice.
As a SJFC alum it will be sad to see the Bills make that move, if they do. Attending Bills camp is one of the staples in the Rochester region for the past 20 years. McDermott also acknowledged the fans last week, “There’s nothing more that we want then to connect with our fans out there.” It’s a tough balance to find, should Rochester area fans want the Bills to keep coming out even if it not what is best for their performance in the long run?