No Yabba-Dabba-Doo as Birds break

BRIAN McCARDLE/PHILLY.COM If Chip Kelly was as excited as Fred Flintstone to get off work, he might look like this.
BRIAN McCARDLE/PHILLY.COM If Chip Kelly was as excited as Fred Flintstone to get off work, he might look like this.
Posted: June 20, 2014

A YEAR AGO, the Eagles wrapped up their spring work on June 6, with optimism, to be sure, but also amid a lot of uncertainty. That was the day Michael Vick acknowledged that splitting the first-team quarterbacking reps with Nick Foles really did bother him, after Vick had parried similar questions for weeks.

There was much speculation about what Chip Kelly's first training camp would be like - The tempo! The music! The smoothies! Players found it all intriguing, but to say everyone bought in completely to the new regime would be an exaggeration.

Yesterday, the Birds wrapped up Kelly's second spring in command, 35 days before they are to reconvene at NovaCare for camp. There was no quarterback controversy, and there were a lot fewer questions overall. Obviously, going from 4-12 to 10-6 in your first year buys you some credibility, but the degree to which everyone seems on board with the Kelly program is hard to overstate.

"The goal and the way things are done, everybody knows [now]," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "Everybody knows what kind of guys Chip wants around here, everybody knows the way practice is going to go, everybody believes in his system and how he wants it to be done. I think last year, we were putting everything in, there were new coaches, there was a whole bunch going on. Now there's more of a clear understanding, not only of what the mission is, but how we're going to get there."

Center Jason Kelce agreed. "I think last year we were all really excited, and part of it is because you see all the things at practice, and you think they're gonna work, but at the same time, you're also excited in the same sense that a fan is, because you're excited to see how it unfolds in the grand scheme of things, and in game situations. So at the same time you're excited, you're also a little bit unsure," Kelce said yesterday.

"Whereas now, we know a lot more about the offense. We're not unsure about anything. Now, I think it's more of an anticipation . . . we're just ready to get going. We're anxious. We're ready to get the season underway."

Indeed, Kelly poked a little fun at questioners who asked his plans for the 35-day break. The break wasn't what he was concentrating on, Kelly said.

"I'll go home and see my family and spend some time with them, but, I mean, I don't look at this as I need a break from what we've just done," Kelly said before the final June workout.

"This is our life choice, and we enjoy it, so it's not like I can't wait for - this isn't like Fred Flintstone with the 'Yabba-Dabba-Doo' and we're trying to get out of work. It's another day, and we'll finish up with some different things before we get some time off. But I think anybody that's in our situation, that coaches, isn't like, 'I can't wait to get out of there.' I think most of them can't wait to get back in there."

Kelly said he wasn't particularly looking forward to unplugging from football for a few weeks.

"I don't think there's a switch. I've never thought of that," he said. "You guys are all sports fans because you get into this. Do you just take 3 weeks where you don't pay attention to any sports? . . . I love the game of football. I have a passion for it, so it's not like if a conversation comes up 3 days from now, I'm on vacation, I don't want to talk about it. I'd probably be the one starting the conversation, to be honest with you."

Kelce said players can't really get too relaxed, with camp just a little more than a month distant.

"From what they've been telling us, it takes only about 4 days not working out to where your muscles and everything start to deteriorate," Kelce said.

One of the things that became clear during organized team activities and minicamp is that the Eagles will rely on free-agent safety Malcolm Jenkins to lead the secondary. Jenkins was asked yesterday if he'd been relieved when the horn blew, ending minicamp.

"To be honest, I wanted one more period," he said. "We were kind of in the middle of a competition. But it feels good. We just finished up a tough offseason, and got a lot of good work in . . . when we reflect on this offseason, I think we did a phenomenal job, obviously, with our attendance," having everyone present for both the optional and mandatory segments.

"Not just guys being here, but guys giving maximum effort, day in and day out. We can't win the Super Bowl today, or in the offseason, but we definitely put ourselves in position to be the best we can at this moment in time . . . We've gotten better day after day, guys have bought in. Now we can go rest a little bit, continue to train, and come back and continue to build those bricks."

Jenkins' former Saints teammate, running back Darren Sproles, agreed that "we worked hard" this spring. Sproles said his main accomplishment was "getting on the same page with the quarterbacks."

Kelly said he isn't worried about players getting into trouble, freed from having to show up at work every morning.

"They're grown men, and I think they understand the difference between right and wrong," he said. "I think the league has an extremely strict policy on that . . . I think a lot of that, we take into consideration when we acquire these guys . . . That's a real big, important thing to us. I don't want a bunch of guys I have to worry about when we're away."

On Twitter: @LesBowen


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