NFC West camps looking like popular draw

Fans screamed as though Russell Wilson were a rock star when the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback ran toward them to sign autographs following practice Saturday.

The Seahawks, who have limited fan seating at their waterfront headquarters, sold out every camp practice after capping ticket allotments at about 2,500 per day. Fans paid $7 for shuttle service to the facility from a nearby shopping center.

Fan interest in training camps seems to be strong throughout the NFC West.

The St. Louis Rams have reported "record" crowds at their facility, where the viewing area is also relatively small. This picture provided by the team shows fans stacked far deeper than I can recall during recent camps. That is for good reason. The Rams are increasingly competitive, they have a high-profile head coach and their offense now features young skill players with promise, notably receiver Tavon Austin.

"I’ve been told it's one of the biggest in years, which is great," coach Jeff Fisher said. "I mean it’s a great combination because we got a Saturday evening. We got great weather and our baseball team is on the road. So, it’s a great opportunity for people to come out and see us."

The Arizona Cardinals have reported crowds in the 8,000-fan range at University of Phoenix Stadium. That's not bad coming off a three-year run in which the team posted records of 5-11, 8-8 and 5-11. The Cardinals lost 11 of their final 12 games last season. The team would typically draw a few hundred during a weekday practice at their former site in Flagstaff, with crowds swelling to a few thousand on weekends. They drew 14,500 for their annual scrimmage last year. The crowd counts in the 8,000 range for the first few practices this summer will presumably drop off some during the week, but they'll likely remain well above the typical numbers for Flagstaff.

The NFC champion San Francisco 49ers have closed practices to the public while their new stadium is under construction across the street from team headquarters. They'll welcome fans to a special practice at Candlestick Park on Aug. 10.

Training camps offer fans an extended look at players from relatively close proximity. However, sometimes it's tough to see the action through the players, coaches, reporters, players' family members and corporate VIP types standing along the sidelines. Teams usually rotate drills to preserve natural grass, and in some cases that means they practice on fields far away from fans. Some teams sell food and drinks. They make players available for autographs and offer other interactive opportunities, especially for kids.