Extra Points: Eagles Open Strange Training Camp
Tuesday marks the start of one of the Eagles' strangest training camps in recent memory.
Veteran players are scheduled to join the rookies and injured players at the NovaCare Complex to begin preparations for the upcoming NFL season.
If there is a NFL season.
As the Eagles' players and coaches were gathering at team headquarters, a chaotic scene was unfolding about a quarter-mile down Pattison Avenue at Citzens Bank Park. Tonight's Phillies-Yankee game at CBP has been postponed in the wake of news that 13 members of the Florida Marlins - according to ESPN.com 11 players and two coaches - tested postive for Covid-19 during their three-game series with the Phillies.
According to The Athletic, Phillies players are scheduled to be tested today at the ballpark.
"It's unfortunate what has happened (with the Marlins)," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Tuesday on a Zoom call. "But I feel extremely safe. Obviously, coming into it there might have been some skepticism about the testing and the screenings that go on, but it’s very thorough. This is our bubble right here at NovaCare."
Although the official start of training camp is Tuesday, it's going to be a while before the Eagles and the rest of the NFL actually start to play football.
An onslaught of Tweets last week from players such as Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz under the hashtag #WeWanttoPlay led to a series of precautions. For example, Tuesday marks the start of a three-day period in which teams will be testing players for Covid-19 and conducting virtual position meetings.
The Eagles and other teams will not be permitted to hold padded practices until August 17.
"We all want to play this season, but we need to stay safe in order to actually have a season!" Wentz wrote on Twitter last week.
"It's time for the NFL to step and do their part so that us players can be safe at work and go play the game we love! #WeWantToPlay."
Pederson offered general guidelines that will be in place. Left unexplained was how the locker room situation will work. Even with the NFL reducing training camp rosters from 90 players to 80, it will make for some extremely cramped quarters. I'm guessing social distancing requirements will result in a new, staggered schedule in which players will dress for practice, shower after practice and be treated by athletic trainers in intervals.
Reservations will probably have to be made to take a dip in the outdoor cold tub after practices.
Because the entire preseason - as well as joint practices - were axed, Pederson and other coaches will also face a major challenge in terms of evaluating talent. He hinted that one possible solution would be to hold more scrimmages during practices to put younger players in competitive situations.
"We've got to have answers on a lot of our players, especially the young guys," he said.
"We haven't seen these rookies live and in person. We have to get them caught up really fast and then take (practices) to the grass and see what they've got."
Fewer players and opportunities could mean missing out on some hidden gems.
Over the years, the Eagles in particular have prided themselves on uncovering players - usually undrafted rookies - who entered training camp unheralded, but managed to take advantage of opportunities to make the regular-season roster or practice squad. Linebacker T.J. Edwards and guard Nate Herbig did so last season. Glassboro's Corey Clement entered training camp in 2017 as 10th-string running back and wound up playing a major role in Super Bowl LII.
They really struck it big in 2003 with rookie free agents center Jamaal Jackson, wide receiver Greg Lewis, returner Reno Mahe, safety Quintin Mikell and defensive tackle Sam Rayburn.
One advantage in the Eagles' favor is stability at the top.
With Pederson, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and general manager Howie Roseman, the Eagles have a continuity that gives them an edge over the rest of the NFC East. Dallas (Mike McCarthy, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan), the New York Giants (Joe Judge, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, defensive coordinator Patrick Harris) and Washington (Ron Rivera, offensive coordinator Scott Turner, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio) all have new hierarchies.
That's an especially big advantage for the Eagles this season, given that there were no minicamps and OTAs for players to learn new systems.
These are definitely uncertain times in many ways.
One certainty is the Eagles will win the NFC East.
If there is a season, that is.
Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to get back to the Cape May Bubble.