Andy Reid is a man of tradition, a man who has embraced the Eagles' history like no other head coach, and he proved it again on Saturday. The team had its walk-through practice, one that is strictly closed and private and one that contains a peek at what the team wants to do in the game the next day. Reid invited the members of the 1960 NFL Championship Eagles squad to the practice, and when it was over, he brought everyone together.
And for the next few minutes, the past and the present for the Eagles franchise participated in something extraordinary. Reid had safety Quintin Mikell address the 22 former Eagles with a message of honesty, humility and love.
"Every time we walk into the locker room and see all of the pictures of your team, it fills us with pride," said Mikell. "It makes us feel like we can go out there and accomplish something. Thank you for laying the foundation for us and paving the way for us.
"We're looking forward to honoring you in a big way."
"Win the ring this year!" yelled former wide receiver and Pro Football Hall of Famer Tommy McDonald. And with that, the team broke down together, with an all-together-now chant of "WIN THE RING."
So special. So chilling. To see Stewart Bradley shaking hands with Chuck Bednarik and to see McDonald and Retzlaff and Timmy Brown -- who was invited to return a kickoff during practice by special teams coordinator Bobby April -- bask in the glory of the day was really, really amazing.
As much as we eagerly await the start of the 2010 season to see the next generation of this franchise take the field, this weekend is about honoring 1960 and the players and the fans and the coaches from that team. The players are now in their 70s and 80s and some of them move better than others, and they are being treated like kings this weekend.
The players gathered on Friday night, swapping stories and saying hello. On Saturday, they had the morning breakfast and practice at the NovaCare Complex, then went over to Franklin Field to sign autographs with the fans and cherish the memory of winning the NFL Championship over Green Bay on December 26, 1960. Later in the night, the Eagles held a gala for the players at Lincoln Financial Field.
On Sunday, if you are in the area, check out the procession planned for the players that leaves the NovaCare Complex at Noon and winds through the tailgaters and arrives at Lincoln Financial Field. The players will be on that Philadelphia trolley that you will see if you are in the area. Take a minute to wave to them with respect and an appreciation for their place in Eagles -- and NFL -- history.
"To have this weekend in place is just remarkable," said Retzlaff. "It has been great. That there are fans who still care about us, well, I can't tell you how much that means. One of my great memories of that season is flying back to Philadelphia after we won on the road and having 12,000 to 15,000 fans greet us at the airplane. That doesn't sound like much now, but it was an incredible feeling to have all of those fans waiting.
"I think that the 1960 team started the love affair that Eagles fans had and still have for this football team. It just took off in 1960."
Of course, well, can you imagine what it would be like for the Eagles to win a Super Bowl now? Oh, the city would burst at the seams, for sure. The celebration would last for days and weeks and, ah, well, I've thought of what that feeling would be like for many, many years. The Eagles had chances in the previous decade, so many of them. Deep playoff runs. A Super Bowl appearance. No championship ring.
It is going to happen; I know it is. The Eagles have a roster in place brimming with talent and the future looks bright. The present is bright, too, and it all begins on Sunday against Green Bay. This is a weekend to experience the past and enjoy the present and have young and old come together and make for a special weekend of memories.
Saturday was a treasure of a day for everyone as the players from the championship team 50 years ago met up with the youngsters on this team to open some eyes and develop a bond that can never be broken.