Sunday will be a homecoming game of sorts for the Eagles.
Carson Wentz will make his first start at home since November 2017. Seth Joyner and Clyde Simmons will return to the city in which they played their best football to be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame. And Frank Reich, the Eagles' offensive coordinator for the previous two seasons and the current head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, faces his former team.
It will be a lively atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field in what is an important game early in the season for both the Eagles and Colts. Reich is trying to make sure he and his team stay focused on the task at hand.
"It's exciting to come back to Philly," said Reich in a conference call to Philadelphia reporters earlier this week. "We know the environment is going to be electric with how things are there, certainly with Carson coming back, so we're looking forward to that being a good challenge for our team.
"And then personally, obviously a special experience there for two years but really, this is the kind of a situation where you have to have the maturity to say that this is unique and special in some ways but this is the next opponent. This is the next game."
Reich was instrumental in helping the Eagles' offense in the last two seasons grow around Wentz. Reich said he communicated with Wentz often during the offseason as he continued his rehabilitation. He sent him a text Monday after he was cleared to start for this week.
Each interaction has been personal, Reich said. He's expecting a challenge facing Wentz in his first game back.
"Like everything he's going to do, he's going to excel at it," Reich said. "I was encouraged and pleased to see how fast the progress he made just watching from afar. And I did keep in touch with Carson over the process a little bit as well, just checking in and seeing how things were going personally. So, I'm excited for him. It's good for him, good for the Eagles. It's good for the NFL. I mean, this guy is a star in the league. It's good for everybody."
Reich said he also kept in touch with Pederson since leaving to become the head coach of the Colts shortly after the Super Bowl celebration. Pederson was able to assist Reich with learning the ins and outs of being a head coach, especially with the task of scheduling. Reich said it made a lot of sense to pick the brain of Pederson, who was "kind enough" to help out.
Reich has also taken a cue from his former boss when it comes to being aggressive and efficient on the field. Reich expects to go for it on high-leverage fourth-down situations without hesitation. And he doesn't expect any competitive courtesy to be granted to him on the field by Pederson.
"I think Doug has one thing on his mind and that's how to win this game," Reich said. "And it's the same thing we have on our minds."
Pederson told reporters earlier in the week that he called Reich after the Colts' victory over Washington on Sunday to congratulate him on his first win as a coach. The two were close friends during their time as colleagues in Philadelphia.
"He's a great man, a great man of faith, as you know, and he and I really connected on that level, on a spiritual level. And that really helps keep me grounded," Pederson said. "He has a really calming presence. I don't think I ever saw him get his feathers ruffled at any time and I think that speaks volumes. Sometimes, you don't have to scream and yell and holler all the time to get your point across and his demeanor really carried well with our quarterbacks and he did a really good job with the two years he was here."
Although the two coaches are close, when it comes down to business on Sunday, an important win is on the line. Pederson said earlier in the week that the offense may have to change a few things to keep someone well-versed in the system like Reich on his toes.
But Reich downplayed the advantage of knowing the Eagles' offense well. He has a whole team to prepare and he knows Wentz and the Eagles will be a challenge no matter how familiar he is with them.
"I didn't spend hours with our defense trying to explain every little nuance of the offense," Reich said. "I talked about some of the players, I talked a little bit about some philosophical things, but my experience over and over again being in these situations is it's overplayed. You give a couple nuggets and then you go play ball."