Banner: Eagles determined to hold camp at Lehigh

Joe Banner said the team will hold out as long as possible before canceling camp at Lehigh. (Akira Suwa/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles are determined to hold training camp at Lehigh and would not cancel until “the very last minute” team president Joe Banner said Wednesday.

An NFL labor deal would have to come soon to preserve the Eagles’ ability to use their traditional training ground, “but we’re going to hold until the very last minute because for us it’s an important part to our whole approach to things.”

Coach Andy Reid believes in the team bonding that comes from a hard camp in the Bethlehem hills, away from normal life for his players and coaches. The team – and many fans -- love the fan participation: practices can draw thousands of spectators and autograph seekers, some of whom might not otherwise get the chance to see the Eagles in person.

“For us, it’s a priority, so if there’s any way to do it, we definitely will,” Banner said.

If the Eagles had to stay home this year, they would practice at the NovaCare Complex on Pattison Avenue, but fans would not be allowed to attend because of an agreement between the team and its neighbors not to hold fan events at the team facilities.

Other teams, including the rival Giants, have already pulled the plug on their traditional training camp sites.

“We’re holding out as long as we possibly can,” before a decision would be made to cancel, Banner said. He did not cite a drop-dead date, but it looks increasingly like the concern might be moot.

After a morning in which the NFL and players both released statements indicating that a labor deal may be near, the Eagles may not need to hold out much longer.

“We have a lot of faith in the people working on this and are confident they understand the urgency and are hopeful they find a way to work things out,” Banner said.