Football fans eager for an up-close and personal look at the Arizona Cardinals in training camp this year will need to take a day off work.
That's because the pro football team will not be practicing on weekends during its July 31 to Aug. 17 stay on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Not practicing on weekends is a marked change from past years when the Cards usually held two practices on Saturday and one on Sunday.
To see the Cards in action, Rim Country fans can take in the two-a-day sessions that will be held most weekdays the team is in Flagstaff. Morning sessions usually begin about 8:45 a.m. and continue until 11:15 a.m. Afternoon practice is from about 4 to 5:30 p.m.
On some days, the afternoon practices are special teams and walk-through only.
Scrimmages are not open to the public.
Training camp sessions have long been a fan attraction because they are free, held in the cool pines of Flagstaff and fans can get closer to the action than possible in an enclosed stadium. Also, practices are a great opportunity for the younger set to get autographs of their favorite players.
Several years ago, one of the biggest draws was ex-Arizona State University great Pat Tillman who gave up a lucrative contract with the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army Rangers. He was later killed in action in Afghanistan. This year, the big attractions could be newly acquired running back Edgerrin James and star wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
The team opens the preseason Aug. 12 in Glendale against the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Kickoff is 1:05 p.m. Following the game, the Cards return to Flagstaff for four days before their second preseason game Aug. 19 against New England.
Last summer, Rim Country fans had to travel to Prescott to take in a preseason practice. After an illness broke out in an NAU dormitory, Cardinal brass decided to abandon Flagstaff and move preseason training.
Prescott was hoping to lure Arizona back this summer, but the Cardinals staff decided to return to their old digs in Flagstaff. Payson Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind also made a futile bid to bring the Cardinals to Payson for preseason camp. Cardinal officials later said NAU was the most attractive choice of the three sites because of its dormitories, cafeterias and indoor practice facility, Walkup Skydome, which can be used in case of rain.
The regular season opens at home Sept. 10 against the 49ers.
-- To reach Max Foster call
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