The Eagles' 'neighborhood' has changed

Posted: March 29, 2013

EAGLES VETERANS might still be a few weeks away from knowing much about the systems they're going to run under new coach Chip Kelly, but when the offseason conditioning program starts Monday, they'll know they're part of a new regime the moment they walk into the NovaCare locker room.

Players who've stayed in town to work out and/or rehab injuries say Kelly has mixed up locker assignments, which under Andy Reid followed position groupings, with the quarterbacks together at the front left, the offensive line all the way to the back on the right, directly across from the linebackers, and so on.

"I think it's going to help us blend a little better as a team. You're with your position so much, in the meeting rooms and like that. This'll also have us hold each other accountable," Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans said Thursday evening at his Herremans Foundation "Hoops for Help" dinner at Lincoln Financial Field.

"If you look around the room right now, most of it is veterans next to young guys," center Jason Kelce said. "Last year, I think the team lacked a lot of leadership. Instead of putting guys in positions together, where position [groupings] are young, they don't really have a leader yet, all of a sudden everybody's around older guys who have been doing it for a long time.

"I think the vast majority of guys are all for everything he's trying to do . . . any type of change, you're going to have a few guys who don't like it. They usually come on about 2 or 3 weeks later. They'll be fine with it."

Herremans certainly is on board. Of course, that might just be because he scored a locker stall next to the back wall, meaning he has electrical outlets.

"I like all the ideas he's thrown at us. Everything he does has a reason," said Herremans, who suffered a complicated foot-ankle injury eight games into the 2012 season. Herremans said he is completely cleared for the special early minicamp allotted to new coaches that starts April 16. "That reason is leading to winning and becoming a better team. I don't think it'll be hard for everybody to buy in."

Tight end Brent Celek, another guest at Herremans' event, said he was able to keep his old locker stall midway down on the left, but "I have new neighbors."

"I like it," Celek said. "You've got other position groups around you you can talk to. I think it's cool."

Kelce, who tore his ACL and MCL in the second game of the 2012 season, isn't quite as far along in his recovery as Herremans, he said.

"Right now, we're hoping that I'll be able to do some things at this first minicamp," Kelce said. "Even that is more me trying to press them to let me do stuff. I think they're trying to take it safer. I'm probably about a month, month-and-a-half until I'm cleared for any football activity. Right now I'm full-go in the weight room, I'm full-go in the training room. On the field is the last area where I still have to go full-go."

Herremans said he has talked to the other notable o-line injury victim, Jason Peters, who is coming back from a twice-torn Achilles': "He's cleared, he said he's ready to rock," Herremans said.

Herremans, a regular NovaCare visitor, said the weight room and the approach to conditioning will be very different, under sports science coordinator Shaun Huls and strength and conditioning coach Josh Hingst.

"I wouldn't say it's anything earth-shattering. There's a lot of strength coaches that have been here that don't really let you know why you're doing some of the stuff, but everything he tells you, there's a reason why you're doing it," Herremans said. "Your whole body works as a chain. If you have a sore shoulder or something, they might have you get your hips aligned or something like that . . . A lot of the stuff they're doing is recovery-based. There's no sense in wearing us down to the ground if you're not going to be able to perform on Sunday."

Celek, 28, said there is more open space in the weight room, and different equipment. The new approach probably has a lot to do with the much-discussed breakneck pace of Kelly practices.

"Just run, as much as you can," Celek said, when asked how he is preparing. "No matter how hard you try to train for it, I don't think you can train for his tempo. Try to get in the best shape you possibly can."

"It's going to be very intense, is what I'm expecting," Herremans said. He said he figures the conditioning session starting Monday is "going to be simulating what we're going to be doing in practice and in the games . . . he's going to get us in probably the best shape of our life. "

Herremans, 30, is keeping a closer eye than usual on the Eagles' draft buzz this year. The past two seasons, he has been the starting right tackle, but before that, he was a very good guard for 6 years. If the Eagles draft a tackle, such as Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher, fourth overall, Herremans might be moving back inside, where 2011 first-round pick Danny Watkins has struggled. Herremans said he has gotten no indication yet. Presumably, he'll line up at tackle for the April 16 minicamp, since it will convene 9 days before the draft starts.

"I'd love to know, but I don't think it's a necessity right now," Herremans said. "I think the necessity is just getting the best blend, whether that has me at tackle or not, it doesn't matter, really, to me . . . We'll find out, probably, in a couple of weeks.

"I imagine they'll move us all around quite a bit, to try to get the best mix out there. Who knows? Maybe it depends on who our quarterback is . . . There's a lot of questions in the air right now . . . I've been saying all along, I want to have the best five out there, because if the best five aren't out there, it's not fun.

"I think I had a really good year at guard a few years ago, and I think I played really well at tackle, 2 years ago. I think last year, my tackle play was subpar. I don't really know what to attribute it to. Maybe I let myself slip a little bit."

Birdseed

Former Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp signed with the Redskins . . . The NFL announced minicamp/OTA dates. In addition to the April 16-18 minicamp granted new coaches, Chip Kelly gets his charges on the field May 13-15, May 20-22, May 28-31, before the mandatory camp June 4-6.


On Twitter: @LesBowen

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