The rookies are here, the rookies are here! The first-year players reported to the NovaCare Complex on Thursday -- eight draft picks, seven of whom are signed, sealed and delivered, and 11 undrafted players who signed on Thursday and Friday, with a weekend-long Rookie Camp ahead. What does it all mean, really?
"It's a chance to get our first look at the players in our systems, in our building," Howie Roseman said. "We put a lot of time into studying the players and now we get our hands on them and see where they are physically and then the coaching staff gives them a lot of information to digest. We see how they process that information and then translate it to the football field.
"It's an exciting time for everyone."
More than anything, the weekend is an introduction to the Eagles' way of life for the rookies. The tempo is very fast. The volume of information is huge. The structure of the day – with treatment in the athletic training room, meetings with position coaches, on-field work, meals, transportation to the hotel – is similar to what the players will experience when Organized Team Activities begin later this month, along with the mandatory minicamp and then, of course, Training Camp in late July.
And then there's this, which is no small part of the equation: The rookies will see the enormous media presence with more than two dozen daily beat reporters, another dozen television cameras, and a handful of members of the national media.
This is the big deal in the world of the NFL. Everyone wants a peek at the rookies to make an exaggerated first report on initial impressions.
However, what the Eagles aren't going to see this weekend is first-round draft pick Derek Barnett sacking a quarterback. They aren't going to see safety-turned-linebacker Nathan Gerry tackle a running back. Cornerback Rasul Douglas won't put his hands on wide receiver Mack Hollins at the line of scrimmage, and running back Donnel Pumphrey isn't going to have to pick up a blitzing linebacker in pass protection.
Instead, this is an opportunity for the position coaches and the coordinators to get a first feel for the rookie class, to overwhelm the players with X's and O's, and see how the rooks respond.
It's a taste, then. An appetizer. A glimpse leading into the meat-and-potatoes part of the offseason training.
And that's it. It is not the be-all, end-all.
"This is just the start," Roseman said. "We have a long way to go until we get to Training Camp and then start playing games that count in the standings."
So that's what's going on this weekend. The veterans continue their Phase Two portion of the offseason for another week before rolling into Phase Three and the OTAs, which begin on May 23.
The building is buzzing on this Thursday. No longer do players bring with them the label of a "draft pick" or a "long shot" or whatever. They're all going to be judged by what they do on the field and how they conduct their business and manage their time off the field. In a very real sense, then, the offseason has gone to a new level and the rookie class gets its first taste of the NFL, Eagles style.
And as the players learn the way of life in the league, the team learns about the players. An evolving roster will continue to take shape as Roseman and Co. evaluate the players and every move and every decision they make moving forward.