For two hours the fans -- men, women and lots and lots of children -- rocked and rolled and had a great time at Lincoln Financial Field, enjoying the first Eagles Flight Night! to benefit Eagles Youth Partnership. People helping people. That's what it was all about on Sunday night as 31,786 fans had their prayers answered as an early-day monsoon peeled away and the night was warm and beautiful for some football in South Philadelphia.
I could sit here and tell you that the practice was crisp and there was significant movement in the battle for the 53-man roster. That really wasn't the case. Oh, there were some moments, such as a couple of Donovan McNabb completions to DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis, and a couple of big plays -- including a blitz pickup -- by Lorenzo Booker. The defense, at times, was dominating, especially the first unit the and No. 3 group.
The coaches can review the film and take what they learned to meetings with the players on Monday. That's all the football stuff. We'll find out about injuries to linebacker Stewart Bradley (knee) and cornerback Ellis Hobbs (stinger), although my sixth sense says both players will be OK.
This was a night about the fans, to salute the fans. You know, Eagles fans and Philadelphia fans in general get a really bad national rap. Yeah, Eagles fans are emotional and they are quick to pull the booing mechanism out of their pockets and they can be ornery and all of that. All they want to do is win the Lombardi Trophy. That's all they want. That is all anybody wants.
On a night when the Eagles -- the players, the coaches and the entire organization with a big shout-out to the stadium folks and those who ran the program -- laid it all out there, the fans came marching in and didn't stop until the last of the fireworks went off in the night sky. You know why Eagles Flight Night! was a success? Because of the fans.
It's always about the fans, as quarterback Donovan McNabb said once practice ended.
"It's amazing every day," he said. "They're out at Lehigh at 7:15 every morning for an 8:15 practice and they definitely give you a boost. Then you come here and see this crowd -- it was great. It was a great show of support. I think it gave each player a little bit of a boost."
Think about it. Nearly 32,000 fans showed up for a practice!! True, it was an enhanced practice. The bells and whistles were present -- from the opening introductions of the starting lineups to the great video features, to the music, to the players being interviewed on the sidelines, to just a general carnival feeling.
Thank you, fans. As usual, the Eagles fans outdid themselves. Thirty-two thousand fans? Are you kidding me? Where are all the national writers now? Any of them here to witness a night that was so happy and fun that the fans even cheered when former Eagles defensive end Mike Mamula was introducted as part of the alumni crowd on hand? That just doesn't happen ...
What it means is that the great work done by Eagles Youth Partnership continues at the highest level. This was an event to fund the many programs of Eagles Youth Partnership to help children in the region with eyeglasses and reading programs and school-playground projects and social interaction activities.
"We can't do what we do," said McNabb, "without the fans. They delivered once again."
The grind of training camp heats up again this week. In a couple of days, the players will be up to here with the heat, with the full contact, with the hum-drum repetition of camp. For one very special night, the players who didn't know were treated to the intensity and the love of Eagles fans.
"I can't wait for the regular season to start to see what it's like," said fullback Leonard Weaver. "Running through the tunnel and hearing the crowd was special."
"The fans were great, as they always are," said running back Brian Westbrook. "This is a pretty amazing night."
So once again, yes, it's time to say thank you to the fans, and to remind ourselves that we are taking the journey together, step by step. Sunday night was something to remember, something to cherish. The Eagles brought training camp to the fans, to Lincoln Financial Field. The fans welcomed the team with open arms, with incredible love and with the promise that there is so much more to come in 2009.