The first of two Eagles Camp Open Practices took place on Sunday. The practice recognized former and current military members for their service.
This was a party, the long-awaited unveiling of the 2017 team to the public of football-starved Eagles fans. A late-July Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field proved to be a lovefest with over 23,000 fans in attendance on a sun-splashed and perfect morning in South Philadelphia.
What a beautiful day.
The team held the first of two public practices at Lincoln Financial Field, which was also Military Appreciation Day presented by Dietz and Watson. Who knew what to expect for a practice that was originally scheduled for a day earlier but moved because of weather concerns. It's a Sunday, you know, and people make weekend plans long in advance and there are Sunday morning rituals that families follow and it is late summer, after all.
But the fans came. And they showered the Eagles with affection. For those players who had experienced fans in this region previously, it was a welcome-back kind of feeling. For those first-time players, it was an energy boost.
"It was great to see all this, to experience all of this," wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said. "I can't wait until we get here on gamedays and we've got 70,000 of 'em here. It's going to be amazing."
The Eagles wore full pads for the second time this summer – the first time was Saturday at a closed-to-the-public practice at the NovaCare Complex – and while there was no tackling to the ground, the action was fast and it was physical and it was just … wonderful. It was an event. Eagles football is back, and there is so much to look forward to with this football team.
"I know I'm feeling good about this team and for me, the offense," tackle Lane Johnson said. "I've been around the fans a long time. I'm just like them – I'm sick of not making the playoffs since 2013. It's time to get to the next level. I want to see us take that next step, and I think we're heading in the right direction.
"We've got a lot of talent here. We've gotten a lot better in a year's time. We just have to keep working hard and put it all together."
Running back LeGarrette Blount received a loud fan reaction every time he touched the ball and he ran hard and was bruising with his touches. Blount comes from New England and he's got himself a couple of Super Bowl rings and he appreciated, while he played there and no doubt even now, the way New England's fans support that team.
And as we all know, the Eagles don't have any Super Bowl trophies. The fans are hungry for one, and the team is as well. The long wait for some action – the Eagles last played on January 1 – ended on Sunday. Fans waited outside the gates long before they opened at 8:30 a.m. The tailgating was out in full flight prior to the 10:05 a.m. start.
Wonderful tributes to the military played throughout the 2:15 practice and the players took the jerseys off their backs and handed them to military members in attendance.
and Torrey Smith made big plays, as did Blount in the run game and Tim Jernigan along the defensive line – and the intensity on the field morphed into fun in the stands.
"I've loved every minute of being a Philadelphia Eagle," Blount said after practice. "The organization is great, the fans have so much passion and have shown me so much love and the team is working hard and getting better. I'm just excited to be here. It's been a lot of fun."
It was a perfect day at Lincoln Financial Field, then and an appropriate kickoff, if you will, to the 2017 season.
"I know what's it's like with the fans and how much they love this team, so coming out here was a reminder for me," middle linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "For the new guys, welcome to Philadelphia. The Eagles mean something to these fans. You saw some of that today. It's a place where football is such a huge part of people's lives and we all appreciate it very, very much."