For 20 years, the Bills held their training camp at St. John Fisher, the Division III college in the Rochester suburb of Pittsford.
And, each summer, the team seemed to add a perk or two which enhanced the fan experience.
Best of all, over half the practices were open to the public.
But that changed last year.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NFL decreed that its teams must hold training camp at their practice facilities sans fans. Indeed, Buffalo was one of only 10 NFL teams that still conducted its training camp off-site.
This year, with the coronavirus somewhat under control due to vaccinations, the Bills will again hold camp at the team’s ADPRO Training Center in Orchard Park and members of Buffalo’s faithful will be permitted to attend three practices, all in the newly renamed Highmark Stadium.
The three workouts open to fans are July 31 and Aug. 7, both of which are Saturdays (10 a.m.-noon) and Wednesday, Sept. 1, (noon-2 p.m.). Gates open an hour before each practice.
Unvaccinated fans must wear masks.
For those attending workouts – it’s open seating – prohibited items include alcoholic beverages, coolers, cameras with lenses longer than six inches, drones, video cameras and recording devices.
Also in effect for the practices is the NFL Bag Policy. Bags larger than 12-by-6-by-12 inches are not permitted. Clear bags smaller than that size, single serve, unopened food containers in the appropriate-sized bag, strollers and umbrellas are allowed.
Limited concessions will be on sale at those three practices and a Kids Zone will be set up in the West End Plaza.
TICKETS are required – there’s a limit to six per person – but they’re free and available by logging on to buffalobills.com/training camp. There’s no charge for parking.
However, due to the pandemic, unlike previous training camp sessions the public was allowed to attend, there will be no player autograph signings.
THE BILLS’ first training camp practice will be held Wednesday, July 28 at 10 a.m.
All of Buffalo’s workouts are set for that time except for two Sunday sessions (Aug. 15 and 22, which begin at 4 p.m.)
Buffalo’s training camp practice schedule has been set through Monday, Aug. 23, though the Sept. 1 workout open to the public is locked in.
From the start of camp, coach Sean McDermott has set 17 practices with the schedule from Aug. 24 through the final cutdown date (Aug. 31) to be announced.
Buffalo’s workouts at the ADPRO Training Center will be July 28-31, Aug. 2-3, 5-7, 9-11, 15-17, 19 and 22. There are no practices Aug. 1, 4, 8, 14, 18 and 23 while the 12th and 20th are travel days.
THE NFL has set three dates for teams to reduce their rosters: Aug. 17 (from 90 to 85), Aug. 24 (85 to 80) and Aug. 31 (80 to 53).
With the league having gone to a 17-game regular-season schedule, all teams have been reduced to three preseason games and since Buffalo has the odd home game during the season (Washington, Sept. 26), two of its three “exhibitions” are on the road.
The Bills are at Detroit, Friday, Aug. 13 (7 p.m.) and Saturday, Aug. 21 at Chicago (1 p.m.) with the home game Saturday, Aug. 28 against the Packers at 1 o’clock.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)