Oh, so close.
That was the sentiment shared by millions of Philadelphia Eagles fans nationwide on Jan. 18 as the Birds let the NFC Championship -- and another shot at the Super Bowl -- slip out of their talons in the game's final minutes, losing to the Arizona Cardinals 32-25. The defeat marked the end of a rollercoaster season in which the team failed to meet its elusive goal -- winning a Super Bowl.
Still bitter from the loss and determined to right their wrongs, the Eagles set out to improve the team. From making blockbuster trades to adding flashy playmakers through the draft, the 2009 Eagles roster certainly looks like a championship-caliber team on paper.
So with a talented team to root for, it's no surprise that Iggles fans are again saying, ''Super Bowl or bust!''
Your first chance to see the new team in action starts Sunday, when the squad rolls into Lehigh University for the 14th consecutive year of training camp in Bethlehem.
Eager to snag an autograph from stars like quarterback Donovan McNabb and cornerback Asante Samuel? Ready to watch rookies try to dazzle the coaches in hopes of making the team? How about just enjoying the summer weather on Goodman Campus? Training camp runs for the better part of three weeks so there's plenty of time to get in on the action. Here's a guide to help you.
Oh, and one more thing: Fly, Eagles, fly!
Rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans report to camp on Sunday and their first practices are Monday. Everyone else on the team is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday by 5 p.m. Camp runs through Aug. 12, but the last day to attend is Aug. 11.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
From points north of Bethlehem: Take Route 22 to the Route 378 South exit to Bethlehem. Continue for 3.6 miles and cross the bridge over the Lehigh River. Stay on Route 378 South and continue over the top of the mountain. Turn left onto Seidersville Road and bear right at the fork. Follow to the stop sign and turn left onto Mountain Drive South. Continue for a half mile; Goodman Campus is on right.
From points east, west and south of Bethlehem: Take Interstate 78 to the Hellertown exit (Exit 67). Turn onto 412 South and continue to the third traffic light (look for blue sign that reads '' Lehigh University''), and make a right onto Water Street, which becomes Friedensville Road. Go a half-mile to traffic island (look for blue sign). Bear right onto Mountain Drive South. Goodman Campus is on the right.
WHERE CAN I PARK?
There's lots of free parking in lots next to Stabler Arena and Rauch Field House starting at 6:30 a.m. each morning. Tailgating with food and drink is permitted, but alcohol is prohibited.
WHAT ARE THE HOURS?
You can start entering the grounds at 7 a.m. Morning practices with the entire team hitting and tackling tend to begin at 8:15 a.m. and can last anywhere from one to two hours. Afternoon practices usually start after 2 p.m. These practices almost always focus on special teams, feature little contact and are often shorter than the morning sessions. Whichever practice you decide to go to, it's best to get to the field an hour before start time to get a good seat in the bleachers.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Here's the best thing about training camp -- it's absolutely free. The Eagles are one of few NFL teams that don't charge for admission. Of course, you'll probably spend some money on team merchandise or on food and drink.
WHERE EXACTLY IS PRACTICE?
There are two practice fields on Goodman Campus adjacent to each other. On some days, players are on both fields and on others, everyone is together on one field. There will be signs at the campus' entrance directing you to which field that day's practice is on.
WHERE DO I SIT?
You can watch from bleachers on the field or stand at the fence to get a closer view.
WHAT IS THERE FOR KIDS?
Children will have a ball at the Play 60 Game Zone, located around the track area. Play 60 is the NFL's youth health and fitness campaign, encouraging kids to stay active and healthy by playing for at least 60 minutes a day. The free zone features several interactive games, including tossing footballs and an obstacle course. The zone is open during each practice (depending on weather and conditions) and is closed in between practices.
HOW DO I GET AN AUTOGRAPH?
Players grouped by their position sign autographs on scheduled days under an official autograph tent. In order to control crowds, the Eagles have instituted a lottery system. Between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., team officials hand out numbered tickets, and will randomly choose about 200 of them to gain entrance to the autograph tent following practice. The staff posts the winning numbers around 9:30 a.m. and they remain up through the morning practice. If you don't have one of the lucky numbers, there are still ways to get a signature. Players sometimes sign on their way in and out of practice -- standing along the fence is a good bet. Players also tend to venture into south Bethlehem to get a bite so you might run into them at places like Starters Riverport, Tally-Ho and Lehigh Pizza.
July 31: Running backs and linebackers
Aug. 1: Offensive line and defensive backs
Aug. 2: Wide receivers
Aug. 4: Quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, specialists
Aug. 5: Defensive line
Aug. 7: Linebackers and defensive backs
Aug. 8: Wide receivers and offensive line
Aug. 9: Defensive line
Aug. 10: Quarterbacks, tight ends and specialistsCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun