Thursday marked another day of work for the Eagles at the NovaCare Complex as they prepare to hit the road for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. Before Thursday's training session began, head coach Chip Kelly met with the media for the final time before Sunday's game. Here are five takeaways from the head coach …
On Being Labeled "Underdogs" For Sunday's Game
Holding a 4-7 record and heading into a road matchup with the 11-1 Patriots, the Eagles are considered by many to be the underdog going into Sunday. But don't tell Kelly that. According to the Eagles head coach, he's never concerned himself with the outside perception of an upcoming game.
"I've honestly never talked to any team I've ever been on about being an underdog or point spreads or anything like that," Kelly said. "I've never paid attention to it."
On Sam Bradford's Progress
Before his press conference came to an end, Kelly gave another update on quarterback Sam Bradford, who has missed the last two games with a concussion and left shoulder injury. The message from Kelly on Thursday was identical to the one from Wednesday.
"He threw yesterday and he did a nice job," Kelly said. "Again, I think it's the residual part of it – is he any more sore? We have another big day of throwing today, so we'll see where he is and kind of figure out what goes on Friday and Saturday … He did a nice job in the last two days, but today is another big test for him."
On Ryan Mathews
While it appears as if Bradford and Zach Ertz will return to the playing field on Sunday, the status of running back Ryan Mathews remains up in the air. Mathews hasn't played since suffering a concussion against the Miami Dolphins on November 15th, as he still hasn't been cleared through the league's concussion protocol.
"(The medical staff) just tells me when they're cleared, so I don't what grades – I don't even know if there are grades," Kelly said. "Sometimes with a shoulder, there's a grade one, grade two, grade three. I just know that he's in the concussion protocol and when they clear him to play he'll come back, but it's not a situation, especially with that type of injury, that will be a forced issue by any stretch of the imagination. You want to make sure that the health and safety of the player is first and foremost, and when he's cleared to go, he's cleared to go."
According to the head coach, the loss of Mathews has had an impact on the offense, though other players have stepped in and done a nice job.
"We have less depth there," Kelly said. "When we had been successful, we've have two big physical backs in there. We're missing a key cog in that right now and we have to kind of make up for it, although I thought Kenjon Barner, when he got in for his first playing time in Detroit, kind of did a nice job, so we'll see if we can build upon that in terms of what he's doing, and then we have (Darren Sproles), but he's played really well for us this year so we hope at some point in time we can get him back, but it's in the medical hands as it should be."
On Brady And The Patriots' Offense
Looking ahead to Sunday, the Patriots may be without both wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski, two of Tom Brady's primary targets. Wide receiver Danny Amendola was also limited in practice on Wednesday, but as Kelly explained, the Patriots always seem to find a way to make different pieces work, thanks in part to No. 12.
"Did they lose Brady, because that I think would truly affect them, and I think it really speaks to how good a football player Tom is," Kelly said. "The fact that they've had a lot of moving pieces around him, for them it's that next man up mentality, and it really helps when he's the one pulling the trigger because he really is an orchestra leader out there in terms of directing protections, changing routes, changing everything. He's been in that offense since he's been in the league, so he's got an unbelievable command of it, and then they find players who fit and they know what the individual players can do and they try to maximize them, but it all starts and ends with him.
"He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer and it's a huge challenge for us to go up and defend him because he's just running the whole show."
On The Eagles Riding Hoverboards Around The NovaCare Complex
One of the most familiar sights inside the Eagles' locker room and all around the team facility is players cruising around on hoverboards on their ways to meeting or to the cafeteria. When asked about the safety of players riding on the boards, Kelly said the team hasn't run into an issue with them yet.
"Malcolm (Jenkins) started it. I think he teaches a class on it," Kelly said. "There are a lot of them. It's a little bit like back to the future with guys flying around the hallways here. If we have an injury we would address it, but they've been doing it I think since back in preseason camp, maybe even back in (the offseason program). We haven't had any hover board injuries, but I don't even know who you would put that on an injury report."