- Eagles players debate which Rita's Italian Ice flavor is the best while the rookies get stuck with delivery duty.
The Eagles filled out a quick questionnaire so that everyone can look back and remember the first day of 2018 Eagles Training Camp.
As the hot and humid dog days of Training Camp begin, Eagles players have turned to the Rita's Italian Ice stand at the NovaCare Complex to keep cool after practice.
But as the water ice consumption increased, a growing debate emerged within the Eagles' locker room: Which flavor is the best?
Four flavors are offered at camp: lemon, blue raspberry, Swedish Fish, and mango. The opinions on them, while mixed, were strong.
The experts on the subject were the local guys. They are Rita’s veterans. Wide receiver Tim Wilson grew up in Wayne, Pennsylvania and running back Corey Clement hails from Glassboro, New Jersey.
“Definitely mango. You can’t go wrong with it,” Wilson said. “Everybody likes it. It’s kind of one you can fall back on. Swedish Fish is a little too freaky. Blue raspberry, your tongue gets blue. But mango, you can’t go wrong with it.”
“Mango for sure,” Clement said. “Mango and lemon are the top. But mango is over lemon so lemon is number two.”
Mango seemed to be the most popular option. Kicker Jake Elliott and linebacker Nigel Bradham agreed. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor put it best.
"It's mango, baby. It's mango," he said.
As the most popular choice, mango was the flavor given to players trying water ice for the first time like defensive ends Michael Bennett and Chris Long, and linebackers Corey Nelson and LaRoy Reynolds. Each of them approved.
But Swedish Fish had several votes as well, earning support without hesitation from cornerback Jalen Mills and running back Darren Sproles. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill agreed with them.
“Is the Swedish Fish the red one? That one is good,” Grugier-Hill said. “I don't know enough because we don't have Rita's in Hawaii. The first time I had Rita's was last Training Camp.”
One popular option for several players was a mixture of flavors. A cup of blue raspberry-lemon as well as one of mango-Swedish Fish were both spotted around the locker room on Sunday. Safety Rodney McLeod, who ate a cup of plain mango on Saturday, was one vocal advocate for flavor mixing.
“Actually Swedish Fish-mango is usually my go-to but I had one of the rookies bring it in today so I’m guessing they didn’t have Swedish Fish,” McLeod said. “But I’m a cherry, red kind of guy. If I couldn’t get the mixture, like I said I like to combine them, but if I have to just go with one, I’d say Swedish Fish.”
Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones also enjoyed mixtures, both favoring Swedish Fish-blue raspberry. When asked who brought them over to the locker room, Jones said it was the rookies’ job to do it. Darby took exception to that.
“This dude is still a rookie,” Darby jokingly said of Jones. “He doesn't realize that. He ain't played three games yet.”
Delivering the Rita’s has become a standard Training Camp task for the rookies. Cornerback Avonte Maddox brought trays of water ice to the locker room on the second and third days of practice.
“I didn’t even know we had them,” Maddox said. “I was told, ‘Hey, go over there and get me a Rita’s,’ and I was like, ‘What the heck is that? Where is that even at?’ And then they pointed at the red tent and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s new.’ I’m like ‘Alright, what kind do you want?’ So they tell us what kind they want and then we go grab it for them.”
It wasn’t fun but Maddox said it isn’t the worst camp job for rookies.
“J-Mills asked me for a Swedish Fish one but instead he gave it to somebody else and I had to carry Jenkins' and J-Mills’ shoulder pads,” Maddox said. “It’s a little more weight than the Rita’s. I’d rather carry the Rita’s.”
Rookie defensive end Josh Sweat brought a tray in for his teammates on Sunday. However, he said it was a job he ended up assigning himself after seeing a teammate’s cup and letting his curiosity get the best of him.
“Yeah, but I’ll be honest with you, I was asking someone where he got that from. He said it was outside. And I realized he was getting it for the vets,” Sweat said. “I really wanted one but if I came back without everybody else’s, it would be a problem. So I got another guy with me to come help me and bring them back in. I volunteered. But I knew I had to come back with it.”
Sweat, who said lemon is his favorite, also learned quickly that in Philadelphia, you have to call Rita’s by its correct name. He also learned how to say "wooder."
“Yeah, I was calling it a slushy,” Sweat said. “And they were like, ‘Don’t do that.’ So I know it’s water ice. It’s very very good.”
In the end, 10 players said they preferred mango, five took Swedish Fish, one said lemon, and three liked a mix of the flavors.
Clearly, not even the refreshing chill of a cup of water ice can cool down the intense battles in an NFL Training Camp.