There’s always a buzz in the air on the first day of training camp.
Players are champing at the bit. Rookies are looking to impress. Tackles come in hard and fast.
That’s the nature of preseason when you spend three months away from the game.
“It's definitely been a long offseason,” said Sheanon Wiliams, “especially when you don't make the playoffs.”
That was the recurring sentiment on Monday morning.
The first few days are always a little hectic.
The technical staff usually starts with passing and possession, short sided exercises that focus on fundamentals as players shake off the rust.
There are finishing drills and even full field games, but the bulk of the first few sessions is spent on simple concepts that get everyone reacclimated without doing too much, too soon.
And while the “big name” signings like Maurice Edu and Cristain Maidana aren’t in camp yet, everyone knows that the stakes are higher this season.
Some of last year’s starters may not be starters come March.
“They're professionals,” said manager John Hackworth. “They're smart, they get it. They know that when we ended the season last year the way we did, we're all disappointed and the bar is going to be raised. I haven't talked to (our core players) about, 'hey we're bringing in new guys'. They know. They knew at the end of the year in exit interviews and our final team meetings that the bar was going to be raised and that the expectations were going to be raised. Internally, we all know that there's a long term plan here. And I think that the players understand that. I don't like to use the term 'bought-in', but they know it.”
“I think the coaching staff and John had more possibilities to do what they wanted to this team,” said veteran Sebastien Le Toux. “So maybe there’s more pressure on us as players, and on him and the coaching staff if you’re spending money to get the players that you want. I think right now we look good, and with a few additions we’re going to get there. We’re going to look better and compete for the playoffs for sure.”
The preseason schedule will play out a bit differently this season, with the team leaving for Florida after just one week in Philadelphia.
In seasons past, multiple weeks were spent in town before leaving for the month of February. There was snowy North Carolina in 2010, Greece in 2011, and Costa Rica in 2012.
Last year was the first trip to Florida, and it came after a frustrating week at the Eagles’ NovaCare complex. Despite trying to get outside, wet Winter weather kept the team indoors, on turf, for another full week.
This season, it’s straight to Florida after wrapping things up at YSC Sports.
“Last year [stunk],” Williams said in regards to the frigid tempeartures during last season's sessions in Philadelphia. “We tried to get outside and it was just so cold here that we weren't able to do it and we ended leaving earlier. This year, let's just do the week and get out of here, you know? We can do more stuff outside on grass and I know some of the older guys are happy to get off the turf and get onto the grass.”
“We learn from our mistakes, you know?” Hackworth explained. “And that wasn't really a mistake, we just learned that it wasn't ideal for us and that it was important for us to get outside and get on grass. We need to be in an environment where we can do all of the things we need to do. Certainly getting down to Florida is important in that regard.”
What do you think of how this year's squad is shaping up? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org