The practice wasn't very crisp, but nobody in the crowd of 31,124 at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night seemed to mind. It was a festive atmosphere for the second Eagles Flight Night!, the kind of crowd that goes home afterward and feels good about having a night out with the family. Nobody was injured, so from that standpoint the coaching staff and players were thrilled with the results.
The football? Well, when the highlight is a 50-yard Mike Kafka pass to Jerad Perry and a David Akers 60-yard field goal, you know the action wasn't as intense as a usual session in training camp. Didn't matter. Players who came to the sidelines for interviews expressed their appreciation for all the fans on hand, and for all the love they receive every day from such a rabid and intense fan base.
"It really is incredible," said fullback Leonard Weaver. "They know everything about you. They spend so much time loving the Eagles. I'll tell you, we feel it. The energy that comes from this fan base is amazing."
Last year's Flight Night! was marred by the season-ending knee injury suffered by linebacker Stewart Bradley on a routine player on which no contact was involved. Bradley practiced this time around, moved around fine, and was glad to get out without having any kind of "curse" idea applied to Flight Night!
"It went better than last year, that's for sure," said Bradley. "I felt good out there. It was nice to hear the fans and to get on the field again and run around a little bit."
Given the number of injuries suffered around the league already, well, having a practice that ends without the athletic training staff carting a player off is a big-time victory.
It isn't worth boring you with the details of the practice, because the Eagles used a shorter script and basically went out there and worked up a sweat and mingled with the fans and bused it back to Lehigh. The purpose of the night was to raise important money for Eagles Youth Partnership, the charitable wing of the Eagles organization. The crowd was greater than the 2009 event, and the funds raised will help EYP continue its great work in the Philadelphia region.
Certainly, the Eagles felt a deep sense of gratitude to the fans for making Thursday such a special event. It was truly a family affair that ended with fireworks and fun and a teeny, tiny taste of the Lincoln Financial Field atmosphere ahead.
Everyone enjoyed. Sav Rocca, Jon Dorenbos, Jeremy Maclin and Todd Herremans threw mini-footballs into the stands. DeSean Jackson waved and pumped up the crowd and tossed a real football to a fan wearing a Jackson Pro Bowl jersey. Two dozen players walked over to the sidelines after practice and removed their jerseys and gave them to lucky fans drawn at random in a Jerseys Off Our Backs promotion.
It was fun, festive, with just a touch of football. In the big picture, what mattered at Eagles Flight Night! was the difference the fans made for a community that goes far beyond the importance of football.