Training camps across the country used to be the norm for Saints

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New Orleans Saints Jameis Winston (2) and Andy Dalton (5)
New Orleans Saints QBs Jameis Winston (2) and Andy Dalton (5) at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility (Photo: Stephen Lew).

Training camp isn’t what it used to be.

It was 34 years ago, after two grueling summers in the south Louisiana heat at Southeastern Louisiana, that the Saints relocated to LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

It was the perfect training camp spot.

Temps were often in the 80’s, a cool breeze blew at night.

There were several NFL teams training nearby.

The Saints practiced against the Packers at Stephens Point and traveled to River Falls to visit the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chicago Bears were in Platteville, Wisconsin. The Minnesota Vikings were nearby in Mankato, Minnesota.

When the players arrived to camp, they huddled outside their dormitory to rent televisions from a local merchant. Years later, when you can spend hours on your smart phone, it seems almost archaic.

But back then, it was NFL training camp.

The Saints practiced against that Bears team that was only two years removed from a Super Bowl championship, won in New Orleans.

When Joe Montana left San Francisco for Kansas City, his first Chiefs training camp included a visit to the Saints in LaCrosse. Fans packed the practice field to the watch the four-time Super Bowl champion and three-time NFL Most Valuable Player.

Being in camp meant literally being isolated from the world. That was true for all – players, coaches, staff and media.

A reporter remembers being on the phone with his four-year old daughter. Every day this beautiful little girl would ask the same question.

“Daddy, when are you coming home?”

Collectively, many of us got those phone calls and said the same thing.

“Soon.”

But, as the days dragged on, it didn’t seem like it.

A few NFL camps are still off site.

The Cowboys will again travel to Oxnard, California. The Carolina Panthers will work at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

And yet there was something unique about 16 hours away from home.

For a television reporter, waiting to do a live shot at training camp, your connection to home was getting hooked up to your earpiece early and dialing into the TV station, listening to the news and the weather.

When your meteorologist was talking about the activity in the tropics, they were talking about something in another world.

When you did your live shot from camp, as a reporter you were a conduit to Saints fans 1,106 miles away.

Training camp in far away places allowed unexpected interaction with coaches.

When car alarms became popular, a reporter would deliberately set off the alarm to his news vehicle. It clearly irritated then Saints head coach Jim Mora.

Of course, that was the idea.

Back then, camp was camp.

It isn’t the same.

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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