In case you were wondering how it works this weekend at the post-draft mini-camp, and what benefit coaches and players gain from the experience, you've come to the right place. The post-draft camp is, truthfully, a tip of the toe into the pool. Veterans come in and knock off the rust. They meet some of their newest teammates. They test their conditioning.
But the veterans understand that the football on the field isn't anything close to what to expect when the pads go on. And for those players who have been around long enough, the meeting and X's and O's instructions are rehashings of what they've already learned.
For the players here for the first time -- both those players who came to the team during free agency and those who came in the draft -- there is much more significance to a weekend that includes five practices, hours of meetings and one critical physical conditioning test at the end of Sunday's workout.
They learn the way you do things as an Eagle.
One of the many reasons Andy Reid has won so many football games here is the program he has in place. There is great structure, a superb support system and high demands on the players. You get to meetings on time, if not early. You take care of your bodies off the field. You work at a certain tempo in practice. You do your playbook study in the classroom and, especially, out of the classroom.
There is some sense of culture shock for players who come from other teams in the NFL, from teams that don't quite have the system in place, or that have more of a scattershot approach to preparing for the season. There is nothing half-baked about the way Reid runs his football program. The system is remarkably precise, and there are no exceptions. Players work at a very high tempo on the practice field. There are few wasted moments.
This is an intense, demanding environment, and players who are new to the team generally emerge completely exhausted both mentally and physically after this introductory weekend.
There are other aspects to consider, too. For rookies coming in, they must understand that a sense of awe will only hold back his chances of making the team. They've all watched Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook and Asante Samuel on television. They are teammates now. The media are a new world, too, as the Eagles have one of the largest contingents of reporters covering the team on a daily basis in the league.
The coaches want to eyeball the newest Eagles on the field, of course. They want to see their natural athletic abilities combined with how they retain information. They want to see the speed at which they play, even without pads and minus tackling. They want to see if the youngsters can handle the enormous mental load they will be fed in three days of practice.
Where a player was drafted and what number he wears and what the fans think about where he fits in matters not a bit any longer. The NFL is a business of winning, or lose your job. The players learn that immediately upon walking into the NovaCare Complex. The pace is fast, and if you don't keep up right away, you don't hang around very long.
* A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND A LITTLE BIT OF THAT *
- The numbers are in! Jeremy Maclin is No. 18, LeSean McCoy is No. 29 and Cornelius Ingram is No. 88. Other notable new Eagles: Jason Peters is 71, Stacy Andrews is 76 and Leonard Weaver is 43. Sean Jones is 26. I could go on and on, because I know you care. Check out the roster for the complete list ...
- Donovan McNabb wrote in his Yardbarker blog about how excited he is to get going and to meet and greet his new teammates. Perfect timing, really. All of the suspense over whether McNabb would be happy about the Eagles' off-season was a non-story to me, anyway. But now McNabb said the right thing and diffused another imaginary controversy. Why wouldn't he be happy with this off-season? The Eagles had a brilliant series of moves, and the Eagles has re-loaded right before our eyes. If you can't feel the momentum, well, you just aren't in the right place. The excitement level with this team is as high as it has ever been. Everyone knows the chances this team has to win big in 2009.
- A lot of veterans around the league are being cut, including former Eagles cornerback Rod Hood. If the Eagles see somebody they like, they have the cap room to go out and get a move done.
- And don't expect Edgerrin James. Not a good fit here. Nice name, great player back in the day. But James wants to go somewhere to carry the football a lot, and that won't happen here.
- Who doesn't practice this weekend? Nothing official, but certainly Stacy Andrews won't be out there. Max Jean-Gilles would seem to be a question mark after his injury on Thanksgiving night. Otherwise, the Eagles should have a full team on the field.
- Who starts at wide receiver right now? It has to be Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson, but there is going to be competition. Oh, I can't wait to watch wide receivers work against cornerbacks. Not sure if that is in the script for this weekend, but it is one of the drills I love more than anything in practice.