You know it's the first day of Eagles training camp when ... A) The heat index pushed 100 degrees in the Lehigh Valley; B) Players arrive with fresh smiles and actually look forward to talking to reporters; C) Andy Reid sits in front of cameras wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
The answer is all of the above, but the one thing you won't see again this season, I promise, is the Hawaiin shirt. I think it's Reid's way of bidding his vacation adieu, for from this point forward he is all business in coaching gear -- Eagles baseball cap, Eagles coaches t shirt and shorts.
He is a creature of habit, having carved out nine seasons as the head coach here. In six of those seasons the Eagles have reached the playoffs and in four of those seasons and, well, you know the record. You know the Eagles haven't made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons and you know that you are in agony that the Eagles haven't won a Super Bowl while the rest of the NFC East flaunts its rings.
You know all that. You know you hope that this is the year.
And here is Reid, running another training camp. And he is running largely the same way, but he also has a "30-plus club," which seems to be comprised of tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, along with safety Brian Dawkins. Reid wants to give the older players a breather. He wants to work them hard, but also wants to keep them fresh for the long haul. So after those players work two days in succession, they will get the next morning free to sleep in, soak in a cold tub, get a massage or simply catch up on their reading. And if the team has a special teams practice in the afternoon, those veterans get a whole day off to clear the mind and soothe the aches and pains.
Whatever helps their bodies recover. It will be a welcome respite for those three veterans (quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and A.J. Feeley aren't included, because they already wear a red jersey in practice and don't get knocked around every day).
Why? Why the change now.
"They're old," said Reid, laughing.
Seriously, folks, that's the reason. He isn't becoming Mr. Softy here, because the Eagles are going to run a very physical, very demanding camp. Reid is simply being smart, backing off where he sees an opportunity to get more production from players who have been through these camps so often they have every rep memorized. They know what is coming before it comes, so they have earned the breather.
Reid was actually very informative in his Welcome To Training Camp press conference. He plans to meet with cornerback Lito Sheppard when Sheppard reports on Thursday night. The "best players will play" at cornerback, so it sounds like Sheppard and Sheldon Brown will compete for the starting right cornerback job. I will tell you that who starts matters not a bit to me, because all three cornerbacks are going to play a lot. What matters is that the Eagles get good play from every one of their players and that they are used smartly and that they understand that they have a chance to be part of something special.
Brian Westbrook? Reid stayed away from it. He is putting his faith in the Eagles' negotiating team of Joe Banner and Howie Roseman, and Reid said that he expects Westbrook to report to training camp on Thursday night and be ready to go. Reid said he has not made plays to speak specifically with Westbrook about his contract.
Reid also updated the injury situations for both defensive tackle Trevor Laws (foot) and defensive end Bryan Smith (hamstring), and it looks like both players will miss a couple of days, at least, of these practices.
Anything else? Well, no, not really. The word on Donovan McNabb's shoulder is that he is fine, but that the Eagles will monitor the situation. Really, truthfully, football is in the future for Reid and the Eagles. The side stuff isn't much of a factor right now.
For the next three days, the Eagles are going to work their rookies and a handful of veterans -- their are a total of 27 players here, including veterans Rocky Boiman, Ryan Moats, Sean Considine, Brent Celek and quarterbacks McNabb, Feeley and Kevin Kolb -- and have them ready for when the full-team practices begin on Friday afternoon. The pads go on Saturday morning. Get your soft pretzels out. The show is about to start. It's going to be fun, as Reid and the Eagles reach for "high expectations" in 2008.