Eagles' first Camp Kelly opens today

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chip Kelly doesn't see his first NFL training camp as a big deal.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chip Kelly doesn't see his first NFL training camp as a big deal.
Posted: July 23, 2013

EAGLES ROOKIES and select vets report to training camp today at NovaCare, beginning in earnest the Chip Kelly era, and it's about time.

More than 6 months have passed since Kelly shocked everyone by signing on to coach the Birds, after first indicating he was going to stay at Oregon. We've written thousands of words about what Kelly has done and said at other places and in the early months here. We've seen glimpses throughout the spring of what he might have in store, and we've tried to make all kinds of inferences from those furtive peeks.

Kelly is a much sharper, wittier press-conference presence than his predecessor, Andy Reid, but he has not been an easy study. You have not read about or watched any lengthy one-on-one interviews with the new coach, where he talks about where he came from and how he got here. That's because Kelly hasn't granted any such sessions. He doesn't feel much of a need to clarify or explain; several times these past 6 months, one reporter or another has launched into an exploration of something Kelly said or did at Oregon, only to have the coach assert either that he never said or did any such thing, or that if he did do or say it, he was misinterpreted.

Over the next few weeks, though, speculation should give way to fact. We're finally going to get a handle on who Kelly is and what he has in mind. Reporters will be allowed to watch practice (though not the daily walkthrough) every day until Aug. 17, when NFL rules allow Kelly to limit us to the first 20 minutes, a warmup period that is generally useless for anything other than a headcount. There will be, finally, games - the preseason opener against visiting New England is Aug. 9, less than 3 weeks away.

We'll still be speculating endlessly about the identity of the starting quarterback, until Kelly names one - we're as tired of it as you are, but it's kind of important. At least now, though, we'll have practices and games to frame our speculation. (By the way, my idea for an online poll: Which topic makes you more likely to throw down your newspaper and yell "Not THIS &*%$ again!!??" A) The Eagles' quarterback controversy, or B) Should the Phillies buy or sell? Vote now.)

As Rich Hofmann detailed in his excellent Daily News Weekend story, there is often a famous anecdote from a coach's first training camp, an attempt to set a tone, a la Andy Reid with George Hegamin and the blocking sled. The most interesting thing to me about that incident was how unAndylike it was; once he became established here, Reid never again did anything similar, he became very protective of "his" guys. But when you first get hired, they aren't "your" guys so much, maybe you need to show them who you are and what you expect.

If Kelly feels any such need, he isn't acknowledging it. I asked him last month about his first camp being a signature moment.

"I'm not that deep," he said. "I don't ever think that way, about signature moments and those things."

You don't want to show guys that you stand for "this" then?

"I think they'll know that already," Kelly said. "You asked me the question last week, what's our training camp going to be like? It's going to be the same thing we did here [in minicamp and OTAs]. 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."

It will be interesting to see how Kelly's hurry-up pace works with a 12:30 practice time every day. It hasn't felt much like Oregon or New Hampshire around here lately, and isn't likely to, as we head toward August. Kelly said he wants to practice at 12:30 because most of the Eagles' games are at 1 p.m.

Kelly seemed taken aback when reporters asked if he had sought advice on his first camp from any of the veteran NFL coaches on his staff, or from any friends elsewhere in the league, such as New England's Bill Belichick, who will bring the Pats here for joint practices Aug. 6 and 7, before the preseason opener.

The thrust of Kelly's response was that he has run preseason camps before, in college, and he doesn't see a big difference.

"It's just longer [than college]," he said. "We get 27 practice opportunities at the NCAA level. I think we get 28 here. The only difference is we play four [preseason] games here. We had three scrimmages in college."

Unless you are a corporate sponsor or were lucky enough to be one of the 50 or so season ticketholders selected to watch a NovaCare practice, your first chance to see for yourself will be next Sunday at the Linc, an open practice for which the Eagles said they already have distributed more than 49,000 tickets through their website.

One of the things we'll start to get a better handle on as camp progresses is how Kelly will relate to the fan base. Attending Wing Bowl only goes so far. Kelly was asked about his interactions with fans during his session with reporters last month. Someone wondered if when they recognize him, they tell him to win the Super Bowl.

"Fans in Philly tell you a lot of things; it's a very interesting town," Kelly said. "They've been great. It's obvious they're extremely passionate about the Eagles, and it's evident, no matter where you go. It's been awesome."

Then Kelly reflected.

"We haven't played a game yet, either," he said. "That could change."

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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