Phase Two of the offseason workout program officially began on Monday, May 1. See photos from the team's on-field practices.
It is the Monday morning after Rookie Camp ended, and at 9:30 the auditorium at the NovaCare Complex is packed with Eagles players, veterans, and rookies together for the first time. Head coach Doug Pederson moves to the front of the room and begins his daily team meeting.
"Good morning everybody. I hope you had a great weekend," Pederson said. "Let's get this started with last week's Competition Winners."
Competition winners? Huh? What's that mean?
Well, it means a lot to the Eagles' players and coaching staff. Created collectively by Pederson, Howie Roseman, and the Eagles' performance team prior to the start of the team's voluntary offseason workout program, a weekly series of competitive "games" was started to, as Pederson says, "create some friendly competition and build camaraderie. We wanted to allow the guys to have some fun with some off-beat competition."
Whether it's a tug-of-war battle between the offensive line and defensive line, a series of agility tests on the field, or a competition in the weight room, the Eagles' players are loving it, attacking it, and very hungrily going after the grand prizes each week.
To the winners go the spoils, extravagant ones at that:
• T-shirts are given out weekly to the winners.
• The winners – three total, unless there are ties – also get coveted parking spots at the front of the NovaCare Complex parking lot. The spots are marked off for "Competition Winners Only" - for the week after they win.
• Back-to-back winners are permitted to select the music in the strength room for a full week after they win.
The grand prize, awarded to the player who has accumulated the most points throughout the spring, is a WWE-style championship belt. It will be announced in mid-June as the team breaks following the mandatory minicamp.
"The guys are really buying into it and getting after it. There is a great desire to compete, and when there is a prize at the end, the guys really want to win," Pederson said. "Our prizes are weekly T-shirts and parking spots along the front row in the parking lot. Those things mean a lot to the players. They are competing like crazy for a T-shirt and a better parking spot, things we take for granted. But the players want to win and they love it.
"Everybody has that drive in him to win and it's the competition that motivates the spirit to win."
A look at the front of the T-shirt that goes to the weekly winners.
Head strength coach Josh Hingst sees players pushing each other off the field, which, when the season begins, should continue on the field.
The competitiveness of these "games" are creating something special, he says.
"One thing that we know in training is that when you have a training partner and you have somebody pushing you, it creates another level of intensity," Hingst said. "That's what this was all about for us. Another thing that I think is important is creating this environment of personal mastery. We really want to try to push these guys to their limits and beyond. If you aren't pushed outside of your comfort zone, there is no way to really master the skill or the sport or whatever we're doing. Let's crank up the intensity and put the players in environments where you have to win one-on-one battles.
"That's what it's like on the field. We wanted to have some added competition when they're training. We want them to thrive when they compete and to seek competition. What I'm seeing is guys who can't wait to compete. They love the competition. Training is testing. Testing is training. The competitive piece should naturally flow out of our training."
The players are broken into three categories to best match up body types: There is a Line winner in the division pitting offensive linemen and defensive linemen. The Big Skill division consists of quarterbacks, tight ends, and linebackers. The Skill division is wide receivers, running backs, and defensive backs.
On this Monday, there are five winners, the extra two included because of ties in the scoring. Vinny Curry won in the Line competition. Najee Goode and Mychal Kendricks were the winners in the Big Skill department, and Alshon Jeffery and Malcolm Jenkins topped the scoring in the Skill division.
"I think it's something that brings everybody together," Jeffery said on Monday. "For me, the parking spot is the best prize. Parking up front, everyone seeing you, that's OK with me."
Said Pederson: "It has worked out so well. The guys are talking about it, they're embracing it, and they want to win. I will continue to do it in Training Camp, where we have competitive periods and the guys can go against each other, within the position groups, or offense against the defense, or however it goes. It creates a spirit of winning. I am really pleased with how it's going.
"Every Monday morning we present the winners from the week before and we also have an ongoing points system. You see the guys who have won and, man, it means something to them each week to be a winner among their teammates."
Oh, yes it does. Center Jason Kelce has been a back-to-back winner, meaning he picked out the music for a week in the 9,000-square-foot weight room, and he loved having the power.
"I'm pretty eclectic, did some early 2000's rap/hip-hop, reggae one day, country the next," he said. "It was a lot of fun. I think most of the guys want the parking spots up front. They're pretty nice. It's a good idea, I think. It enforces the competitive nature in guys. You want guys who are competitive, who are going to win, and who are going to do what it takes to beat the other guy. The more players you have on your team like that, the better equipped you're going to be to fight through adversity on the field and, hopefully, the more games you're going to win."