For the first time as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Sirianni has a field of players he can reach out and touch. He has players in the meeting rooms learning the X's and O's and the whys and why nots of the program he is installing. A Rookie Minicamp this weekend is, truly, his introduction to the Class of 2021, but it's more than that for Sirianni, who will see his players on the field at the NovaCare Complex today as part of the three-day, on-field series of practices.
"I'm really excited to be able to work with them and to get going and spend time with them and to coach football again, yeah, it's really exciting for all of us," Sirianni said on the eve of the Rookie Camp from his office at the NovaCare Complex. "We have them here in the building and we get to see their faces and work with them and build those relationships and that's what is so important. Every piece matters. Every little thing matters. We're here to win games, obviously, but there's a process that goes into it and this is a big piece of that process."
Nobody is going to make instant judgments on the 26 players (including five tryout invites) in attendance. The players aren't wearing pads. There is no contact and the tempo of the work on the field will be far less than what the players will experience when the veterans are in town.
But it is going to be important for the players to show something to the coaching staff. That's how Sirianni has it drawn up for the weekend. He wants the players to be fast and fluid on the practice field.
"I want to see what the players can do in person. The mental part of it, I've instructed the coordinators to keep this a bare-bones install," he said. "Yes, we are catching the guys up and the position coaches have been doing a good job catching the guys up to the vets who have been in the program for a few weeks now, but a lot of this will be review for them this weekend, because what I would like to see is what they can do in person. Let's keep this simple. Let's not move them around too much, just keep them right there and let's see what all these guys can do."
Along with what happens on the field, the players will participate in position meetings and group installations, as Sirianni noted. He has a very specific theme for the players – whether it's first-round draft pick DeVonta Smith or any of the seven players signed after the draft: You all matter, and you're all here for a reason.
It is important, Sirianni says, that all the players understand the meaning of his words.
"The message is what is being preached to the vets. It starts with the core values, and I've talked about them before. Here is what we are building this program on and touch on all of those values. That was the Thursday message. The Friday message is, 'Here is how we practice.' You can't assume that anyone knows anything," Sirianni said. "They are coming in here fresh. We want to show them right away what our standard is when we practice. We need to teach them every little thing because those details are what matter. 'Here is', for example, 'how far away you stand from the center. Here is how far away you stand from the sidelines. Here is where the tight end stands, the wide receivers – everybody.' No detail is too small to teach in practice.
"The other message that will be preached throughout the weekend is, 'We don't care how anybody got here. You are all Eagles now, and the best guys will make this roster.' First round, second round, free agent, it doesn't matter. We've had plenty of free agents make the rosters in the past and they've helped us win. We want the players who are going to help us win football games."
The regular season begins on September 12 at Atlanta, and Sirianni had an initial reaction when the schedule came out on Wednesday night: Let's line up and play, no matter the time, the date, or the location.
"When you get the schedule, everybody looks at it and it's a fun thing to do. I know my wife looks at it and the first thing she wants to know is if we're playing on Thanksgiving and if we will be home for Christmas. That's my wife," he said. "For me, we'll play anybody, anytime, anywhere. We all play on the same field whether it's in Philadelphia, on the road, whether we're in London, Venezuela, it doesn't matter to me. I'm excited that we're going to have fans at Lincoln Financial Field and it's going to be rocking. We start in Atlanta and I know it seems like a long way away, but to me, we've got a lot of work to do before we get there. I'm really looking forward to every step of the process along the way."