Sean McDermott is changing nearly everything the Bills do in Buffalo.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that training camp in Rochester is no different.
The Bills released their camp schedule on Thursday and it contains only 13 practices at St. John Fisher. There will be two more workouts during the camp “portion” of preseason that will happen in Orchard Park.
There is also only one night practice: the first session on July 27th at 5:30pm.
Camp has the second earliest close date in its history at Fisher: August 15th.
The immediate reaction from many in Rochester was to wonder if less camp at Fisher will eventually mean no camp at Fisher.
This season will be the first of a new five-year agreement between St. John Fisher and the Bills to hold camp in Rochester.
McDermott seems to like the idea.
“The fans of Rochester and that area are of huge importance to us,” McDermott said Thursday. “We value those relationships and we look forward to building on those relationships. We’re going out there to get our work done. I don’t believe in doing anything but that for any other reason then to win football games.”
The Bills’ schedule this clear very much resembles the camp McDermott has experienced the last six years in Carolina.
The Panthers train at Wofford College, about an hour away. They have one practice per camp at Bank of America Stadium where they play home games and conclude about August 15th.
In fact, every single one of McDermott’s NFL training camps have taken place on a college campus about an hour away from the team facility.
League rules dictate another important part of a camp.
Per the league CBA signed in 2011, a team can begin camp no more than 15 days before the first preseason game. The Bills’ first preseason game is on a Thursday for only the second time since that CBA became law. Most years, the Bills start on a Saturday.
The first Thursday exhibition opener was in 2012 and that camp looked a lot like this one. Same start date, same number of practices (15) and the end date in 2012 was one day earlier.
The 15 total practices mirrors the total sessions for 2011, 12 and 13. There were 16 practices last year and 17 two years ago.
The lack of night practices could be because McDermott likes to be an early riser. Look no further than the preponderance of 8:45am practices as evidence.
Holding a night practice at New Era Field is an idea that should have happened years ago.
There’s no doubt the facilities are preferable in Orchard Park, as are the accommodations.
“Of course I want to be out of the dorms,” Tyrod Taylor said. “But I also like the aspect of being away and actually getting a chance to spend time with your teammates. It’s a lot of new faces, we’re still learning each other.”
McDermott said he sees the value in going away as well. Just because camp is different doesn’t mean it’s leaving town.
At least, not yet.