BETHLEHEM, Pa. – From a distance, Training camp at Lehigh University didn’t look like anything special. The Eagles have practiced hundreds of times on the same field under the omnipresent eyeballs of Andy Reid, with no discernible difference from what was taking place in the first full training camp week of 2010. The drills were the same. The sounds were similar. The crowded stands and boisterous fans were familiar sights… Ho hum…
By sight, the first full-team, full-contact practice week of camp didn’t differentiate itself from any of the past . Beneath the surface of what seemed to be “normalcy” was more electricity, more nervousness, more excitement, more nerves, more fresh starts and more new lives than ever!
Kevin Kolb was trying to convince himself to calm down. Michael Vick couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Stewart Bradley and Omar Gaither were salivating thinking about hitting somebody for the first time in a year. Ellis Hobbs couldn’t wait to knock down that first pass.
There were a plethora of new beginnings and rebirths taking place …
The Eagles’ first-year starting QB had the juices flowing. So much so that he needed to settle down.
“I was [juiced] early and I had to find a way to calm myself down because that’s what you have to do in a game,” Kolb said. So it’s good practice for all of us. That’s why I love when the fans are here. It’s good practice for all of us, game tempo, game situation to calm yourself down and still execute.”
It took just two plays into the first 11-on-11, full-contact scrimmage for the jitters to disappear. That’s when Kolb hit DeSean Jackson deep down the right sideline for a 70-yard touchdown. That’s when the Kevin Kolb era sent its first salvo. It was reminiscent of the 2004 preseason game against Baltimore, when Donovan McNabb hit Terrell Owens deep down the sidelines for a touchdown. McNabb and T.O. had sent a message. Now, Kolb and Jackson have sent theirs. Kolb was pleased with how his first practice as the full-time starter went, even though it included an ultimate fighting exhibition.
“I thought it was good. I thought it was positive. Obviously I had a few throws I would like to have back,” he said after the morning practice. Overall, first team, second team, third team, everybody offense, defense, I thought it was a great first day.” One of those throws Kolb would like to have back was an interception by Stewart Bradley in the middle of the field. Even that couldn’t sour a solid effort.
It’s been a long time since Michael Vick practiced in full pads with guys banging as hard as they can around him. The Eagles do not practice in pads during the season, and Vick hasn’t been in a training camp for four years. As for his previous training camps with the Falcons, they weren’t like this.
“My first real practice in four years and it was great to be out there,” said the Eagles’ backup QB after an uneven day where he looked great on some plays and sloppy on others. “I’ve never been in a training camp where the crowd was into it and it’s live. I see why these guys win and win year in and year out.
“Coach kind of makes you aggressive, makes the defense aggressive out there hitting. To be in live [practice], you can’t create that type of atmosphere more than once a week, and that is during the season.”
Still, the quarterbacks aren’t taking hits in training camp like they are in the regular season. The QBs wear special red jerseys in Lehigh, meaning they are not allowed to be touched.
Darryl Tapp didn’t seem to get the memo. He hit Vick on one play accidentally in the morning session on an attempted pass. Vick went to the ground and rose with a smile. He was fine and didn’t even know it was his fellow Virginia Tech alum who hit him until told by the media. For Vick, though, nothing could ruin this day, some four years in the making.
“It feels good to be knocked down, it feels good to be behind the center, it feels good playing with shoulder pads on and simulating game situations,” Vick said. “It just felt good. It’s football”
Defensive players like nothing more than to make a big hit. Especially when they haven’t been able to level anyone in almost a year. That’s where Stewart Bradley stood prior to Saturday morning. After tearing his knee last year during training camp, Bradley hadn’t been involved in any full-contact action since the injury. So when given the chance to send someone to the ground – even if it was after the whistle during a scrum – Bradley was going to take it.
Bradley belted Riley Cooper with a hip check early in the morning practice when the rookie wide receiver was involved in fight with cornerback Ellis Hobbs.
“Yeah, it’s awesome to get the pads on, and I did a lot of hitting today,” Bradley said with a smile. The Eagles’ starting middle linebacker was impressive in his return to the field. He covered tight end Brent Celek step for step several times, knocked down a few passes and even picked off Kolb.
“Stewart, I thought, moved around very well. He did some good things,” Reid said. “There were a couple of plays there that I saw him get upset because he kind of new where the play was going and he overreacted to it a little bit. He made a great interception off of Kevin, and hid himself in there. He kind of stuck inside and did a nice job of reading it and hiding himself from Kevin. And you won’t see Kevin do too many of those, he’s pretty good at that, but Bradley, he was a sneaky one on that one.”
Sneaky and content. Bradley was ecstatic just to be on the field.
“It was great to be out there,” he said. “I had a lot of fun and there was great energy out there on the whole squad and that was one of the most fun two-a-day practices I’ve been a part of, so I really enjoyed it.”
Andy Reid keeps his contact practice tame these days, holding morning scrimmages “without tackling to the ground.” The Eagles worked mostly on their hurry-up offense in 11-on-11 drills as Reid continued to ease up as injuries mount. Finding enough players for the 11-on-11 drills is becoming exceedingly difficult due to injuries – making Training Camp more like a M*A*S*H unit.
The most serious of the walking wounded is defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, who sustained a concussion during a collision Monday. Reid couldn’t pin a timetable on the second-year pro’s return. Also out for a “a while” is center A.Q. Shipley, who suffered a high-ankle sprain.
Right guard Stacy Andrews sat out practice with a minor shoulder strain that should keep him out of this afternoon’s session and maybe more. Second-year cornerback Macho Harris will also miss at least a few days with a hamstring. Reserve corner Dimitri Patterson took Harris’ place.
Mike McGlynn moved from second-team center to replace Andrews at right guard. Nick Cole continued to start at center. Running back Mike Bell [hamstring], Wide receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson [carted off field after a lower back strain], tight end Martin Rucker [hamstring] and cornerback Asante Samuel [hamstring] are each improving and expected back “soon.”
Some highlight’s from this week’s camp
* Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and cornerback Dimitri Patterson locked arms and tussled after Maclin caught a pass across the middle with Patterson draped across his back. No punches were thrown and the skirmish didn’t last very long.
* Quintin Demps picked off Mike Kafka twice during hurry-up drills, once around midfield and once inside the 5. Demps had jumped the route (a la Asante Samuel) on both picks.
* Stewart Bradley practiced but Omar Gaither took some reps at first-team middle linebacker, presumably to ease Bradley’s load.
* During 1-on-1 drills, Dobson Collins beat Geoff Pope on an inside route but dropped the ball. He was reminded by receivers coach David Culley that great routes mean nothing if the ball isn’t caught. On his next route, Collins beat Pope down the left side and caught Kevin Kolb’s well-placed lead spiral.
* Pope got revenge, later picking off Vick in the hurry-up.
* J.J. Arrington, who fumbled Monday, dropped a wide-open pass across the middle during the hurry-up.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me email@example.com