Doug Pederson emphasizes the point every day: It's about trust for the Philadelphia Eagles. Trust in each other. Trust in the protocols put in place to make the NovaCare Complex a safe working environment for players, coaches, and staff. Trust that if everyone works together, the Eagles are going to have great success in 2020.
We're only a couple of days into the New Normal Training Camp as the Eagles adjust to the physical-distanced way of their daily routine. We've got a few things to discuss here, including the backstory of how Kobe Bryant's "10 Rules" appeared in a beautiful piece of artwork just outside the Eagles' locker room. Let's get to what's happening with the Eagles …
1. A key point to remember is that the first padded practice date is August 17. Between now and then, the roster will have a schedule of meetings and strength and conditioning sessions, along with walkthroughs. Four days of unpadded practices precede the August 17 start of 14 padded practices. The emphasis now is on taking mental reps and, well, that's the way the NFL world works right now. The coaching staff is making sure to maximize its time and, as in the past, the days are full. Players are in the NovaCare Complex early in the morning and they leave after evening meetings have concluded. The mental volume and stress are the same. Those young players who can handle all of the information are the ones who have the most success.
2. Let's talk about the wide receiver picture with Alshon Jeffery on the Active/PUP list. Pederson said on Monday that Jeffery is "doing extremely well. I'm excited about where he's at." What does that mean? It means that Jeffery is recovering from last season's Lisfranc injury and that the Eagles are taking his progress one day at a time. If you haven't learned already, understand it now: Pederson isn't going to project into the future. The goal is to have Jeffery ready to go for Washington in Week 1. As for the big picture at wide receiver, the Eagles have Jeffery and DeSean Jackson as the veterans here. Greg Ward has been in the system since 2017. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is in for Year 2. And draft picks Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins are the next wave. Yeah, it's a young group that needs developing, and it's why new wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead is such an important addition to the coaching staff. He has to develop some young players in a most unusual camp.
3. The roster sits at 82 players (83 with international practice squad exemption Matt Leo, who does not count toward the limit) at the moment, just for those keeping track at home. (UPDATE: The roster is now at 81 (82 with Leo) following Wednesday's transactions.)
4. Will the Eagles add any players to the roster heading into the regular season? One of the big unknowns here is how teams will play it with the waiver wire and with any veterans still on the streets. Really, really interesting scenarios for pro personnel departments who are traditionally ready to hit the road and visit preseason games to scout players and teams. The Eagles, for example, are playing a team in Week 1, Washington, that has a new head coach, Ron Rivera. How challenging is the advanced scouting part of the business when there is no preseason to get even a basic sense of what Rivera is running there? The Eagles are going to have to rely a lot on what Rivera did in Carolina with the Panthers, I guess.
5. You heard, no doubt, that the Eagles added Kobe Bryant's "10 Rules" to the wall outside the locker room at the NovaCare Complex, using artwork from Bryant's days at Lower Merion High School outside of the City, a photo of Bryant in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform "showing the fire in his eyes," said Eagles Vice President of Football Operations and Compliance Jon Ferrari, and recalling, of course, Bryant's visit with the team in December of 2017, the Super Bowl-winning season, wearing an Eagles jersey. Bryant was a gigantic Eagles fan. The players and coaches and everybody were a huge fan of Bryant, who tragically passed away on January 26 in a helicopter accident. How did the team make the decision to honor Bryant and, at the same time, inspire the team?
"It was an idea from several people," Ferrari said. "Our Vice President of Equipment Operations Greg Delimitros and I are kind of in charge of some of the graphics around the building and we work with Howie Roseman and Coach (Pederson) about what the messaging to the team is going to be, and then Greg and I execute it.
"After the tragedy, the idea of the 'Kobe Wall' came about. We decided to freshen up some of the look in the building, around the locker room, around the weight room area. The outpouring of emotion from the guys on the team and with (cornerback) Darius Slay joining the team and picking jersey No. 24 as a tribute to Kobe because of what Kobe meant to him, the competitiveness that Kobe had was the kind of messaging that we'd like to have around the building, so it was really Coach and Howie's idea to develop that wall.
"We came up with different concepts and different versions of it and then it sat dormant for a little bit as we went through the pandemic and we were out of the building. As we got closer, we wanted to move forward and get everything done. Jeffrey (Lurie), Coach, Don (Smolenski), Howie – everybody signed off on it, thought it looked great, thought it sent the right message to the players, and we think it looks great.
"The attention that it got was so surprising. It meant a lot to Alshon, obviously, and the way it's played out is so interesting. I think it looks great. I think Greg thinks it looks great. The players love it and they're engaging with it and it makes you feel good."