Tuesday afternoon the New York Giants will hold their final practice of the 2012 training camp at UAlbany. After practice and meetings, players will down the Northway to the team's East Rutherford, N.J. practice facility, the Timex Performance Center.
The question of the day is, will the Giants ever be coming back to Albany?
The Giants have trained at UAlbany for 16 of the past 17 summers, missing only the NFL Lockout-impacted 2011 season. The team's contract with UAlbany has expired, and the question of whether this would be the final camp held away from the Giants' own practice facility has hung over this camp for the past three weeks.
Giants owner John Mara did not want to discuss that subject on Monday. The assumption by most, however, has been that the Giants would seem likely to stay home at the Timex for future training camps. Let's take a quick look at the pros and cons of training in Albany for the Giants.
- Coach Tom Coughlin, and the players, seem to relish the bonding experience. They are away from home, in UAlbany dorms, for three weeks. They have only each other, and only football, during that time.
- This is a tremendous fan experience, much better than what fans attending practices at the Timex get. At the Timex, bleachers are set up behind a chain-link fence one one side of the field, really in the parking lot. At Albany, fans often ring the field. Players have to walk past them to go to the locker room. Anywhere from 2,500 to more than 5,000 fans have attended practice every day. Many of these are upstate fans who would never get to see the players otherwise, and they get an up-close experience.
- There really is only one, and it is a huge one that could be the deciding factor. UAlbany does not have an indoor practice facility. When it rains and the Giants are forced indoors they can only use the basketball court, where they have to hold a walk-thru. Coughlin has admitted being on pins and needles every day about the weather. The Giants have only been forced inside once this summer, but with only 15 training camp practices now (two-a-days are a thing of the past) that is devastating.
In New Jersey, the Giants have three-and-a-half FieldTurf practice fields and a full-sized practice bubble. To have that sitting vacant while the Giants are forced to hold a walk-thru in the UAlbany gym seems to make no sense.
UAlbany says it would be willing to expand its current indoor bubble, which is now only an indoor tennis facility, or build a new one if the financial resources can be found in order to keep the Giants in Albany.
More and more NFL teams are abandoning the traditional away from home training camp. Despite Albany's efforts, and the wonderful atmosphere of camp on the college campus, it really seems to make little sense for the Giants to continue traveling upstate each summer.
The team's training facilities, adjacent to MetLife Stadium, are state of the art. No worries about logistics. No worries about the weather.
It would appear likely that when the Giants pack up their equipment and leave Albany over the next couple of days that they will be saying farewell for good.