BETHLEHEM, Pa. --Welcome to the best time of the year, when expectations are high, when anything can happen, when a Super Bowl is there for the taking. Today marks the opening of training camp, and every day here means a step closer to the regular season and the cadence of weekly edge-of-the-seat anticpation and excitement and angst and everything that goes along with being an Eagles fan.
It's been a long time, folks. Thanks for your patience and your emotional and the heart you pour into this team every day of the year. I love you for it. I loved it every minute of a wild and crazy off-season, from the high of the playoff wins to the low of the loss in Arizona to the ups and downs of free agency, the pre-draft period and then the draft. And the way you are tuned in every day here is so admirable, so inspiring, so nutty.
The season is here.
Lehigh University is quiet now. The fields are manicured and the stands are in place and the practice facility at the Goodman Campus here has never looked better. When tomorrow morning gets here, the fans will come as if a new world has opened for them. And in a way, it has. The 2009 season offers so much promise and so many wonderful storylines to follow for this football team. The Eagles have an excellent team assembled, on paper. They have talent and they have depth and they have an exciting mix of youth and veterans.
The first three days of practice are maybe more interesting than in years past. The rookie class features three offensive players at the top of the list -- wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (nothing new to report on his contract status as the clock ticks toward the team's meeting tonight), running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Cornelius Ingram. Add in wide receiver Brandon Gibson, who looked good in the spring, and there are some fun, young players to watch learn every day through Wednesday.
Friday morning is the first full-team, full-pads practice, and the fans will pack the joint. No question about it. Hearing the roar when the players come on the field, and when the pads collide and when a player makes a big hit or a great catch ... it gets the blood flowing. So close to September, and so far away ...
At this time, though, all is serene. The players are on the other side of the hills, moving into their dorms and preparing for three weeks of minimalistic living. The routine is the same every day -- wake up, have meetings, practice, have more meetings, mix in meals, and practice again before concluding the night with meetings. Lather, rinse, repeat. Groundhog Day for 17 days.
It is a battle of attrition, a taxing time both mentally and physically. These young kids are going to see a lot of reps -- McCoy and Ingram, especially -- and the Eagles have a long list of must-accomplish items on the agenda. They have an offensive line to get in order, they have a running back situation to make sure is right, a tight end position to mature, and an entire defense under the guidance of a new leader, Sean McDermott. Have we even talked special teams much in this off-season?
We think we know this going in, though: The Eagles have a chance to be a very, very fine football team. They have a chance to win the Super Bowl. One step after the other, though. The process is the fun part, and here we are.
So, we move forward together. Arm in arm. Brothers and sisters rooting for the Eagles to do it all, every bit of it. To win the Super Bowl and to accomplish the dream we all dream every day.
It starts now, and the silence is deafening. Six months of roars are to follow, as Lehigh University provides the backdrop for a show that is about to lift the curtain to a world of Eagles fans.
*NEWS, NOTES AND THIS AND THAT *
- Just to repeat, nothing new on Maclin and his contract status as of early afternoon on Sunday. Still waiting, just like you.
- Monday's practice at 8:45 a.m. is open to the public. The afternoon practice begins at 3:30 p.m. No charge for parking or for admission to the practices. If you come out, stop by the PhiladelphiaEagles.com tent, where we broadcast after every morning practice.
- Any lingering injury concerns other than Brian Westbrook? Certainly, Stacy Andrews has to show he is ready to practice, and Max Jean-Gilles will try to get in two practices every day. Kevin Curtis proclaimed himself 100 percent healthy, so he should be ready to go.
- Remember, no official depth chart until just before the opening preseason game, but we will detail who is playing where when practice starts. The rookies and selected veterans practice on Monday and Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and then on Wednesday at 8:45 a.m. only.
- I haven't heard a thing as far as trades, signings, claiming players off of waivers, just as an FYI. Very quiet, other than waiting to hear on Maclin.
- I know the common belief out there is that Sean McDermott will be every bit as blitz happy as was Jim Johnson, but I'm not buying that. I think McDermott will see what kind of matchups he has and what kind of havoc he can create with an aggressive front four before he turns loose the dogs. Just a feeling I have.