Eagles begin training camp - and a new era

All was quiet at the NovaCare Complex on the day before rookies and selected veterans were to report for work.
All was quiet at the NovaCare Complex on the day before rookies and selected veterans were to report for work. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: July 23, 2013

Lane Johnson's contract was the last hurdle for the Eagles before training camp commences Monday. Once they agreed to terms with the first-round pick late Saturday, the Eagles were ready for a training camp under Chip Kelly in which every player is expected to report on time.

The Eagles scheduled 30 of 90 players to report Monday afternoon. That total includes the rookies, the quarterbacks, and selected veterans. The remainder of the roster will check in Thursday, and the first full-squad practice is Friday.

Then six months of what might be the NFL's most anticipated experiment will materialize, although Kelly is not viewing 2013 as a rebuilding year despite major changes. That means his decisions - including the starting quarterback competition featuring an aging Michael Vick - will be made with this season's success as the chief barometer.

"My job is to win right now," Kelly said. "How do you think I'd be received in Philly if I told them we were going to write this year off? Those people that are waving to me on the streets right now? That ain't going to happen. But that's never been my mentality, either. We're not writing anything off."

The Eagles will hold two practices before the veterans arrive. The sessions will include the first training-camp snaps for Vick and Nick Foles.

Johnson, with a four-year, $19.853 million contract freshly signed, will not miss time in the team's plan to start him at right tackle.

Other notable players during the first two days are rookie end tight Zach Ertz and rookie cornerback Jordan Poyer. Both missed minicamps because of their academic calendars, so the coaching staff's first extended look at both comes this week.

Veteran tight end James Casey also is expected to participate during the first two days. Casey, a free-agent signee from the Houston Texans, missed much of the spring with a knee injury.

Kelly expects training camp to be a continuation of the team's offseason program, and he doesn't plan for any bold gesture that makes an example of what he envisions or that illustrates his authority.

"I think they'll know that already," Kelly said. "It's not like we're going to drastically change from what we did. If we did, then basically, we're kind of full of crap on what we did in the whole offseason. It's more of the same in terms of what our approach is."

Camp also will be a good indication of how much the players have bought into Kelly's system. Players have been supportive of Kelly so far, but that is often the case in the offseason. Sentiments can change when difficult roster decisions are made, arduous practices are demanded, and pressure mounts as the season approaches.

Kelly has been consistent about explaining the "whys" and ensuring that players understand the process. He said it's similar to his approach at Oregon.

"And it's not about trying to get them to buy in. It's to get them to understand if we're going to do something, there's an importance to it," Kelly said. "If there's an importance to it, then we should be able to explain that to you. Not just do it because we said so."

Many players have praised Kelly for explaining what he prioritizes. For example, he has explained the science and purpose behind the reasons he wants them to sleep more, to watch what they eat, and practice in a certain way.

"We would never ask the guys to do anything that we didn't think was going to be beneficial to them," Kelly said. "We don't do things just for the sake of doing things. This isn't change for the sake of change. This is change that we believe is necessary, because we believe in what we're doing and we've got evidence to prove that it's going to work."

Despite coming off a four-win season, the Eagles do not believe they are a rebuilding team. Neither does Kelly - at least publicly - and Monday marks another milestone in his first season.

"If I went in the locker room and said this is going to be a really good year for us to get ready for the following year, that's not going to work," the coach said. "No one has a mind-set like that. So our decision isn't based upon what is the future two years down the road, three years down the road. I don't think that far."

Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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