The NFL is a copycat league.
From the plays to the formations to the technology, teams tend to borrow ideas from their opponents, some which include their hardened rivals.
Add the Cardinals to that list.
This year, the Cards joined a growing trend that’s seen teams relocate their training camps to either their home stadiums or practice facilities. For the first time since moving to Arizona in 1988, the Cardinals are holding camp in the Valley, at University of Phoenix Stadium. In 2005, their camp was held at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott because of a viral outbreak in Flagstaff.
The Cardinals hold their first official camp event -- the annual conditioning test -- Thursday. Friday the team will practice for the first time.
As of this season, 20 of the league’s 32 teams will hold training camp at home. The Green Bay Packers hold training camp at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisc., a short 6-mile drive from Lambeau Field, but aren’t considered training at home.
“I’m anxious to have training camp in this stadium with this many people every day so that we have that kind of excitement every day,” coach
According to research by footballgeography.com, only five of 31 teams trained at home in 2000.
The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles were among the last crop of teams to return to the homestead.
“I think it’s a comfort thing,” Eagles wideout Jeremy Maclin told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “There’s going to be an option for guys to stay at hotels if they want to. But guys want to see their family. After a hard day’s work, they want to go home to their family, see their kids and sleep in their own bed.”
Of the four teams that will hold training camp at their stadiums, the Cardinals have the farthest trip, almost an hour from their practice facility to University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cards are required to stay at the team hotel for most of camp.
In 2012, only one team, the Cincinnati Bengals, relocated to their home facilities, Paul Brown Stadium.
“It’s the second year in it,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said, according to Cincinnati.com. “We’ve been able to tweak the process and improve on some things that we were kind of walking through blind a little bit.”
The trend has taken off during the last decade. Since 2003, 14 teams have moved home. In 2009, the St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints relocated to their practice facilities.
Some teams have called their facilities home for a while. The Browns started training at home in 1992 and then again in 1999 when the team reformed. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans have been at home since their respective inceptions in 1996 and 2002. The Tennessee Titans have been at home since 2000.
As the NFL continues to evolve and teams look for any advantage they can, home, it appears, is where training camp is.