Pro football

No large bags for NFL fans this season

2013-09-01T18:00:00Z 2013-09-01T21:05:54Z No large bags for NFL fans this seasonSteven Wine AP Sports Writer nwitimes.com
September 01, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

MIAMI | Season-ticket holder Cheryl Troutman walked into the Miami Dolphins' stadium for a recent exhibition game wearing a Ryan Tannehill jersey and carrying a clear baggie that contained her wallet and two packs of cigarettes.

The jersey was new — the Dolphins changed their colors and logo during the offseason. The baggie was new, too — the NFL has placed stricter limits on the size and type of bags fans can bring to games.

"It's something you've got to get used to," Troutman said, adding with a laugh, "Just like the new uniforms. I didn't like them at first, but they grew on me."

Not all fans like the new restrictions regarding bags, which the NFL adopted after the Boston Marathon bombings. Each spectator is now permitted to carry a small clutch bag and a clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bag no larger than 12 by 6 by 12 inches.

The league is trying to separate fans from their backpacks, fanny packs, purses, diaper bags, camera bags and coolers, even though it might be easier to get the ball away from Tom Brady.

"I'm fine with it, but I know a hundred people who probably aren't," Dolphins fan Michelle DeSimone said.

Colleen Tobin agreed, although she managed a laugh as she entered the recent Giants-Jets game at MetLife Stadium.

"My pockets are stuffed," Tobin said. "I mean, I've got some personal things that would be pretty embarrassing to put in a clear bag for everyone to see, so I had to take all that stuff and put it in my pockets."

There have also been fan complaints that lines to enter the stadiums will be longer and move more slowly.

"It's a huge pain in the butt," John Dispenziere said at the Giants-Jets game. "It's not just the stadium or the NFL, it's society. People don't know how to act anymore, so this is what we're stuck with. It makes the stadium and coming in here not fan-friendly."

League officials actually predict entry will be faster and easier, because there are no longer any big bags to search. And while some fans grumbled about the new policy during the exhibition season, NFL security director Jeffrey Miller said initial feedback was mostly favorable.

"Some people don't quite appreciate why we're doing it and have some objections," Miller said. "But reports from the clubs are generally positive. We're pretty encouraged so far. We know there are going to be some rough spots in the beginning until fans understand the changes."

Preseason was a chance for security personnel to iron out any kinks, just like the players on the field. Occasional confusion was evident at stadium entrances, and the big test will come next weekend when the regular season starts and crowds are larger.

Many fans arrived for their team's first exhibition game aware of the tighter restrictions, and had no objection. Robin McLaughlin, a Tennessee Titans fan and a season-ticket holder since 1997, attended the game against Atlanta carrying a clutch bag.

"We've been coming forever, and I've always had this sized bag, so it's not a problem," McLaughlin said. "I don't bring blankets and diaper bags and all that stuff."

But some were caught by surprise by the new rules. Dallas Cowboys fan Juan Gutierrez, who travels 600 miles roundtrip from Beaumont, Texas, to attend games, said the tighter restrictions made it difficult for him to bring along a camera, binoculars and snacks for his toddler.

"It's terrible. I don't like it. It's bad," he said. "Everything has to go in your pockets."

While small bags are permitted, the NFL actually encourages fans not to bring any type of bag with them. Blankets and jackets are still allowed. The league provides details at nfl.com/allclear.

The NFL is the first major sports league to prohibit large bags, although a handful of major colleges have no-bag policies. The new NFL restrictions will be in force for all games at the Dolphins' stadium, including the University of Miami and the Orange Bowl.

"I know the other leagues are going to look very closely at what we're doing," the NFL's Miller said.

Dana Lurie, whose family has had San Francisco 49ers season tickets for 40 years, said the NFL might be doing her a favor with the new policy.

"I always leave my purse somewhere when I carry one," Lurie said, "so I'm better off not bringing it."

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