The camp’s remoteness has created logistical challenges, demanding of Smith and his staff more forethought when inviting free agents for workouts. With the closest major airports 80 miles (Roanoke, Va.) and 120 miles (Charleston, W.Va.) away, coordinating travel is essential.
The isolation has also produced meager crowds, a natural consequence of training 1,200 miles from home, in an area not easily accessible by major commercial airlines. Instead of drawing a few thousand fans as they would in Houston, the Texans attracted at most 300 for each of two sessions last week, and the atmosphere was lacking because of it.
Among the sparse crowd was Richard Porfirio, 28, of suburban Clear Lake, Tex., who loaded camping equipment into his 2005 Nissan Maxima and set off to watch his favorite football team. “Why not?” he said.
The primary beneficiaries have been displaced Texans fans like Jennifer Brannan, 42, of Frederick, Md. She and her husband, Kevin Spurgers, 46, a native Houstonian, booked a vacation here with their children, Finn, 6, and Grace, 4, as soon as the camp dates were announced. Hanish Patel, 28, who is from the Houston area, moved to Roanoke in June to begin a residency in internal medicine and considered the Texans’ arrival mutually beneficial.
“Can you imagine training in July and August in Texas?” Patel said. “It’s brutal by 7 a.m. there.”
The temperature here on Thursday last week topped out at 82 degrees. It was, players said, the hottest day to that point. As a cool breeze wafted through the air, Covington remarked, “If we were in Houston, we’d be melting.”
Fiedorowicz said: “Mentally, by the end of practice, your brain would be fried. You’re just exhausted. I’m coming out here every day, and I’ve got energy.”
For years, Smith said, the Texans studied the cumulative effects of training in…