Eagles hold Flight Night at the Linc

Eagles kicker David Akers watches the fireworks from his back after the team's annual Flight Night practice at Lincoln Financial Field.
Eagles kicker David Akers watches the fireworks from his back after the team's annual Flight Night practice at Lincoln Financial Field.
Posted: August 06, 2010

The giant eagle head was inflated, the Rocky soundtrack cued up, the smoke machine churning, and the cheerleaders gyrating.

The new-look Eagles ran through the spectacle Thursday night, out onto the turf of Lincoln Financial Field, for practice.

The added pyrotechnics were for Flight Night, an annual open practice that raises money for the team's charity and allows fans who usually can't get tickets a chance to attend an event at the stadium.

Most important, no one got hurt, allowing the large contingent of new Eagles, including 13 draft picks, numerous undrafted free agents, and several trade acquisitions, to relish their first chance to play inside the Linc, or at least play as a hometown favorite.

Clay Harbor, a fourth-round draft pick fresh from Missouri State, said the crowd was one of the largest he had performed before. His college home games averaged about 10,000 fans, he said. The Eagles said 31,124 attended Thursday's practice.

"It's a great environment, and it's pretty electric in here," Harbor said. "I can only imagine when the season comes around and the stadium is full."

Brandon Graham is used to the crowds: At Michigan, he played in front of more than 100,000 in the stadium nicknamed "The Big House."

"This is my next big house right here," Graham said. He later added, "I can't wait until next Friday," when the team plays its preseason opener against Jacksonville.

The Eagles' workout was nearly identical to those they perform at their Lehigh University training camp, only amid cheering fans and the kind of production values normally reserved for a game. Plus, a little mugging for the cameras as Eagles players thanked the crowd during interviews and led fans in E-A-G-L-E-S chants.

The night ended without any apparent injuries, a welcome change from last year, when linebacker Stewart Bradley suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, forcing him to miss the entire season.

Before the practice, he wrote "Flight Night . . . yeah, baby!" on his Twitter account. After the practice, he said he was feeling fine.

The actual substance of the practice was rather ordinary. Jared Perry caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Mike Kafka in one of the only remarkable plays of the evening.

Some of the most exciting moments for fans came before the practice formally began. Kicker David Akers threw footballs into the stands, and the crowd cheered Kevin Kolb during warm-ups until the new starting quarterback waved.

Michael Vick also received a warm dose of vocal support when he came out for warm-ups. The biggest cheers were reserved for wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was not practicing but was introduced beforehand.

The event is important for fans who can't get tickets to the sold-out regular-season games, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said.

"This gives a chance for a new generation of fans to be a part of the game-day experience," he said from the sideline.

He also praised the charity work the event supports. Money raised through Flight Night goes to the Eagles Youth Partnership, which provides health and education programs for low-income children in the Philadelphia area.

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com.

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