Something significant happened on Wednesday, and while it lasted for only a handful of minutes as the supply sold out quickly, the Eagles put single-game tickets on sale for the 2021 season at Lincoln Financial Field. It's happening. It's really happening. After a 2020 campaign during which only a few thousand fans were able to watch the Eagles live and in person, what is ahead of us promises to be real progress toward the life we've known.
The fans are coming back – both to the regular-season games and to two public practice sessions at Lincoln Financial Field. That's exciting for everyone, and it's something not lost on the players. Maybe there were some in the league who didn't quite appreciate the importance of the energy generated by the fans in the stands during the course of a game. If there were any doubts before 2020, there are none now.
"I'm very active with the fans," cornerback Darius Slay said. "We're going to have it lit. I've been on the other side of playing (at Lincoln Financial Field), getting booed and making plays here and there. I'm glad to be on this side having them cheer for me, too. I'm looking forward to it, man. A couple of picks, pick-sixes if the Lord blesses me very well, and it's going to be lit. I'm going to be lit with them."
Said guard Brandon Brooks when we spoke last week: "It's going to be insane. It's going to be rocking. I know the Linc is going to be screaming. It's going to be on fire, man. I'm getting excited talking about it, to be honest. It's not just the season. We've got those two open practices at the Linc (August 8 and August 22), and I know that's going to be crazy. I'm excited to have the fans back out there. The fans play a big part in getting us hyped up, into getting us going. It will be great having them back out there. We've got the best fans in the league, so I'm looking forward to it."
For some players who perhaps never realized the energy the fans generated from the stands, 2020 was an eye-opener. The Eagles were 3-4-1 at Lincoln Financial Field, with wins over the Giants and Cowboys happening when the maximum capacity in the stands was 7,500 per game. Even when those fans were present, along with thousands of cardboard cutouts of fans lining the lower bowl, the atmosphere was stiff, pun intended. It was lifeless.
It was everything opposite of what Eagles fans bring to the table – passion, energy, focus, and a collective educated eye. The players noticed. The players missed the connection.
"It was horrible, honestly," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "I knew the fans were a big part of things, but I guess I had kind of become used to it. I played in front of big crowds in college (at Michigan) and then here it was the same with 70,000 screaming fans in the stands every week. I loved that energy. It got me hyped, but I didn't really appreciate it until it wasn't there. The fans are what give us the extra edge. That's why it's the home-field advantage. I honestly can't wait to see them again. I can tell you that we all missed the fans. It was terrible without them."
That is the common theme for this team: We can't wait to reunite with Eagles fans.
"I'm super excited to get the fans back," tight end Dallas Goedert said. "Last year, along with our record, along with not having fans in the stadium, it sucked. It was tough to play. The energy they bring, whether we're getting booed or cheered on, doesn't really matter. We're playing for them and when they're at home, it's hard to tell if they are there with us. But when the Linc is rocking, there is nothing better."
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave didn't have an opportunity to bond with Eagles fans last year after signing with Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent. Defensive linemen love the home crowd because the noise is unsettling for offensive linemen and the trenchmen get a jump off the ball in the best of times. The 2020 season was anything but the best of times. That's all going to change in August when the Eagles hold the two public practices along with two preseason games at Lincoln Financial Field.
"It's just good seeing football get back to normal," Hargrave said. "It was real sad going into a stadium and seeing no fans. There's nothing like getting a sack or making a tackle and hearing the crowd scream or just having that home-field advantage on snap counts. It's going to be so much joy this year playing in front of the fans.
"The fans fuel everybody. It makes everybody more eager to make a play, so you can get the crowd into it. Football getting back to normal, for everybody and not just us, seeing that it's going to be a great thing. I'm really excited to see these Philadelphia fans."