Eagles set to make themselves at home at camp

Posted: July 19, 2013

ANDY REID loves camping more than the Boy Scouts of America. Not the pitch-a-tent, build-a-fire, tell-ghost-stories kind of camping. The sweat-dripping, two-a-day practices-on-a-remote-college-campus-away-from-the-wife-and-kids kind of camping.

He loves the smell of dorm-room mildew in the morning. Loves taking his team on the road for 2 or 3 weeks in the summer and building camaraderie.

If Reid still were the head coach of the Eagles, his players would be packing their bags and bug spray right now for yet another fun-filled trip to Lehigh University.

But Reid isn't the head coach anymore. Chip Kelly is. And he doesn't share Big Red's fondness for smelly dorm rooms and too-small beds.

The Eagles cut ties with Lehigh after 17 summers and will hold training camp at the NovaCare Complex starting Monday.

It will be the first time in 70 years that the Eagles have held camp in Philadelphia. The last time they summered in the city was 1943, when they trained at Saint Joseph's University during World War II.

Before Lehigh, they were a little closer to home, spending 16 summers (1980-95) at West Chester University and seven (1973-79) at Widener. But this will be the first time in franchise history that they'll hold two-a-days on their own fields.

The Eagles are merely following the lead of much of the rest of the NFL. Twenty-one of the league's 32 teams will hold camp at home this summer. That's 14 more than in 2001.

Since '08, nine teams have moved their training camp to their own facility or stadium, including the Eagles, Giants and Cardinals this summer.

Meanwhile, Reid and his new team, the Chiefs, will be one of the 11 teams still camping out of town. They will open camp next week at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph's, Mo., about 55 miles north of Kansas City.

"I just think we have everything here," Kelly said. "To pack everything up and move [to Lehigh] for 3 weeks, that didn't make sense to me."

Kelly is big on getting his team into a routine and sticking to it. The team's spring workouts usually began at 12:30 p.m. Their main training camp practice also will commence at 12:30. Regular-season practices likely will begin at the same time. Why?

"Because that's what time we play most of our games," Kelly said, as if that should be obvious to anyone with half a brain.

He saw little sense in spending the better part of a month up in Bethlehem, then packing everything in mid-August and moving back to NovaCare. Wastes time. Interrupts routine.

As everyone knows, Kelly places a premium on players' getting a good night's sleep. You don't have to be the CEO of Serta to figure out that a player is likely to sleep better in his own bed or at the Airport Marriott than on a lumpy dorm-room mattress with a 330-pound offensive lineman with sleep apnea lying 4 feet away from you.

The Eagles will house its players at the Marriott during camp, but Kelly said he probably will permit veterans to sleep at home after the first week or so.

Advancements in technology over the last 5 to 10 years also make it more beneficial for teams to train at home now.

Access to video is essential to coaches and personnel people, whether it's to review that day's workouts, look at video of a free agent, or compare a quarterback's mechanics from last year with this year's. All of that is much easier to do at home than on a laptop at Lehigh.

"It's just so much more accessible [at NovaCare]," general manager Howie Roseman said. "It's quicker. Everything we want. Cut-ups. It's really easy here, if I want to watch Matt Barkley's college tape, we have a system where I just put in his name and I get every throw he's made, every time he's dropped back to pass. Incompletions, completions. Sacks, interceptions, touchdowns, all the play-time stuff.

"If I want to watch Lane Johnson, I can do a play-time cut-up. I just put his name in and it gives me all of the play time. Up there [at Lehigh], it's like [what] we used to have. It's beta. You've got to go through the whole tape. And it's slow.

"Five years ago, this wasn't even part of the conversation, because it didn't really matter. But now, with the advancement in technology, it's just so much quicker [at home]. Everything is easier."

Another major benefit of holding training camp at NovaCare is the team's indoor practice facility.

The 2011 labor agreement has placed limits on the number of times teams can practice in pads. There is a premium on every one of those practices.

Lehigh didn't have an indoor practice facility. When it rained, the Eagles' only option was to put on sneakers and retreat to a nearby field house, where they could do little more than hold a walk-through session. Now, if rain or lightning or a swarm of locusts chases them off the NovaCare fields, they can just trot over to their bubble and not miss a beat.

"You have issues when it rains [at Lehigh]," Kelly said. "Where do you go? That's not an issue here. Our training facility, in terms of how we want to lift, how we want to do this or that, why would you move everything to go somewhere else?"

Why, indeed.

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