On Friday, their first full day of this-is-how-we-do-it with the Philadelphia Eagles, the 2023 Draft Class met the media to talk about their so, so early perspectives on being with the team. They'd been in the classroom with their position coaches. They had done a walkthrough practice. They were on the way to the first on-field practice of this Rookie Minicamp and this is what they had to say about their mindsets and who they are as NFL players.
DT Jalen Carter: 'I'm coming in with a winning mindset'
The business of his first NFL contract is out of the way and Jalen Carter is all football now. That's a relief, but really, for Carter, it was never that big of an issue.
"It was really important, but I wasn't really looking at the contract. I was focusing on being here and getting to know everybody," he said. "I knew my agent was going to handle it."
Carter says jersey No. 98 "will look good on me." He has been spending the week becoming more familiar with the Eagles and conditioning and he is ready to play ball and learn the system.
"It's been pretty chill for most of the time being, talking to everybody. It's been smooth. Very loving. Everybody wants to see everybody do good," he said. "I'm taking it day by day, learning, doing what they ask me to do.
"I'm coming in with a winning mindset. I'm here to win every day. That's what I here to do."
LB Nolan Smith: It's all about the details
Already, technique is in play. Linebacker Nolan Smith is working with Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers Coach Jeremiah Washburn and absorbing lessons on the little things about his game.
"Ton of advice. Ton of things I learned, from fixing my lines to simple pass-rushing things from simple stances. You could say I love Coach Wash," Smith said. "He's getting me right as far as fixing my lines, my aiming points. He's coaching me how I want to be coached."
The point it, it's all about technique in the NFL. You can win with talent alone in college, but it takes much more than that at this level. Smith played at 242 pounds at Georgia and after losing a few pounds in the pre-draft process, he's packing it back on."
Smith thinks that new Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai used "smaller" linebackers like him when Desai was the defensive coordinator with the Bears very effectively, but Smith isn't sure how the Eagles will use him. He said he is excited to meet Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick soon – the rookies will leave Philadelphia after this weekend and then return on May 15, per college rules – and trade ideas and absorb knowledge from Reddick.
"Media always knock us on the same thing. Certain guys like me – Von Miller's not knocked on anymore because he's proven himself – guys like us that are undersized guys, I just want to know certain things that he does about his game, how he approaches the game, how does he study. So many questions I have to ask," Smith said. "I just want to learn."
OL Tyler Steen: Jeff Stoutland is 'definitely a different dude'
You know the story: Tyler Steen started at Vanderbilt and then transferred to Alabama and earned a starting left tackle spot there and now he's in Philadelphia looking to create a name for himself here. The exciting part: Working with a great group of linemen under the tutelage of Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland.
"Just getting the opportunity to learn, really just learning the offense and learn how we work up here," he said. "Also, really getting a chance to connect with my teammates and other rookies in the room."
Steen said that Stoutland is "definitely a different dude, a different type of O-line coach. He's a great teacher and you can tell that right away. You can tell that right away. You can tell that he really cares about his job and helping people. It's exciting to be in a room like that."
S Sydney Brown: 'Study until it's unconscious competence'
After starting for five seasons at Illinois, Sydney Brown knows that to make it at this level, he has to know, well, everything. He isn't looking ahead to potentially earning playing time. He's taking this step by step.
"Right now, it's about learning the defense, competing, and just being the best version of myself every day," Brown said. "Proving. Earning respect. That's my mindset going into this. It's not, 'Yeah, there's an opportunity to start.' It's about what I do to earn the respect of the guys around me, especially the guys who have been here for much longer than I have."
Brown said the key is to simplify the volumes of information being thrown at him, so he relates it to what he learned in college.
"You're trying to relate stuff to the system you've been a part of," Brown said. "I just try to simplify it. You've just got to simplify it, attack it, and study, study, study, study until it's unconscious competence."
CB Kelee Ringo: Ready to be a sponge
He is going to be the young pup in a veteran's cornerback room, so Kelee Ringo knows that when he's around Darius Slay and James Bradberry and Avonte Maddox, he's got to listen to everything.
"One hundred percent, man. Definitely, as soon as I get to meet them, continue to be a sponge from vets like that," Ringo said. "Knowing myself, I like to give guys younger than me game on how to play certain coverages and things better, or just the role overall, so definitely just to be able to look up to them and continue to learn from them and be a sponge."
Ringo said that when he took part in the walkthrough and talked football and communicated with his teammates it really hit home that he's in the NFL, that he's an Eagle, and that there is work to do.
QB Tanner McKee: 'Be humble and hungry'
As the only quarterback in the camp, Tanner McKee has a lot going on. He's being fed enormous amounts of information and is taking all the reps in this weekend's practices, so it's an invaluable experience.
"I feel like Coach (Nick) Sirianni did a great job of setting the tone with a Rookie Minicamp meeting this morning saying, 'Hey, this is the way we're going to do things. This is the tempo that we're going to have. We're going to have physicality. We're going to have brotherhood. We're going to compete.' A lot of those things, I feel like I'm good in. Would love to get to know the guys, but also the offense. Dip my toes a little bit of what it's like to run this offense and what style it is," McKee said.
The Eagles want to see how McKee absorbs the offense and how he runs the huddle and, of course, how he delivers the football. After running things at Stanford the last couple of years, he's the small fish in a big pond.
"The best thing I've heard is, 'Be humble and hungry,' and so that's what I'm going to try to do as a rookie and as a little guy," he said. "I want to reach my potential. I don't know what that is yet. And have no regrets."
DT Moro Ojomo: I love competition
"The Eagles, in hindsight, I always thought they were a really cool organization, a really cool team."
Moro Ojomo followed the Eagles and knows some of the team's history and has a mature perspective, which isn't a surprise for a young man who started kindergarten at age 3 in Nigeria and then stayed in the same grade path when he arrived in the United States. He enrolled at the University of Texas at age 16, so he's a young rookie (21) after playing five seasons there. He has played defensive end, nose guard, and defensive tackle.
The Eagles will initially look at him at defensive tackle, but will no doubt see what kind of versatility he has and, in this deep and talented room of defensive linemen, see if he can make the roster.
That's just fine with Ojomo.
"I love competition," he said. "There is a saying of 'high tides raise all ships,' you know what I mean? So, let's go. I want to compete."