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Eagles Say Bye, Bye To Lehigh

For the last three weeks, the Eagles have called Lehigh University home as they prepared to embark on a new season. The people have been great. The weather not so much, but the most important thing is that everyone can travel back to Philadelphia relatively healthy.

"Escaping Lehigh without any serious injuries on the team, the team being intact and whole, that's the blessing right there," said wide receiver Hank Baskett after Tuesday morning's practice. "Now we just have to keep moving on and keep making things happen and keep performing out on the field."

After all the time and sweat the players have put in during training camp, they are most definitely looking forward to the season opener at home against the St. Louis Rams on September 7th.

"I'm ready to start playing games," weakside linebacker Omar Gaither said. "We have three more preseason games and I'm anxious to get this thing kicked off and see how this season is going to go for us."

Fans see the heavy contact that occurs during the two-a-day practices, but there is more that makes camp difficult that the average person does not see.

"It's just long hours. That would have to be the worst thing about it, and the beds aren't the most comfortable," said Gaither. "But at the end of the day, you know it's a necessary evil and you grow as a team when you do come to training camp."

For the rookies especially, the bonding and baptism by fire can be beneficial.

"Getting your first NFL camp out of the way, it's been rough," said defensive tackle Trevor Laws, the Eagles' top draft pick. "I'm barely hanging together, but it's great to be done with it, move on through this preseason and get ready for these regular season games.

"It's like the gauntlet. Seems like every single day something new is flying at you, live periods here and there. It's pretty tough, but we are ready for the year now. All throughout and after the draft, it weighs on your mind but now that it's here and it's done, it's a real good feeling."

Since head coach Andy Reid's camp involves a lot of hitting, where many other NFL camps do not, the Eagles should be better suited than other teams to play at full speed with the pads on.

"We came out here and got some good work in. The end of camp marks that now the season is coming around the corner pretty quickly," defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley said. "It's tough, but it's good work. It's good hard work. That's how you have to look at it. You are getting better everyday."

The pain and punishment of training camp will ideally help the players' bodies and minds make a smooth transition into the regular season.

"A lot of teams haven't been hitting each other and their first experience of hitting is in the game," Baskett said. "You don't want that. You want to be the aggressor. You don't want to be the one out there being timid. We know what it's like to get hit. We hit each other everyday so we are ready for that first game. We went out there and showed it and we are only going to get better and better."

Even though it's difficult, there is one aspect of training camp that even Omar Gaither will miss.

"The food's good. I love the food," he said. "Since day one I've loved the food."

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