Confident Eagles are one, big, harmonious group
BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP)
All the rookies reported on time, some veterans even showed up early and a few star players now have new contracts.
These are happy days for the Philadelphia Eagles.
No controversies. No distractions. No backup quarterback calling them a ''Dream Team.''
''It's awesome,'' quarterback Michael Vick said. ''It's great to have all the guys here. Everybody's enthused. It seems like they're happy to be here, happy to be around one another. We just enjoy each other. We continue to build our relationships and friendships and our brotherhood. It's special.''
The Eagles on Friday afternoon held their last practice before they put on pads and start hitting. It was a long one, lasting nearly three hours because coach Andy Reid wanted to get players ready for full contact in the days ahead.
Reid changed up the practice schedule this year, flip-flopping the morning and afternoon sessions. So the Eagles will hold walkthroughs first and then practice for real after lunch.
''You can get something out of the walkthroughs,'' Reid said. ''It's really another meeting on the field. But it's important that guys work in the afternoon and come with a certain attitude and try to get themselves better every day.''
The Eagles are coming off a disappointing year in which they finished 8-8 after a 4-8 start. A wild spending spree last summer brought in several accomplished players and the Eagles were expected to make a run at the Super Bowl. But the team never lived up to expectations and fell far short of fulfilling Vince Young's bold prediction.
For some, that's motivation.
''We've got a lot to prove, to ourselves, to each other and to the city of Philadelphia,'' wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. ''That's why I think guys are going to really move the ball this year. I think guys are really looking forward to seeing what we can become.''
It was a busy offseason in Philadelphia marked by major change in the front-office. President Joe Banner stepped down, giving Reid and general manager Howie Roseman final say on everything.
Banner wasn't exactly popular among players, especially when it came time to negotiate new contracts. He didn't endear himself to several former Eagles, including fan favorites Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook.
But these are the new player-friendly Eagles now.
Star wideout DeSean Jackson signed a five-year, $51 million deal, and three others got new deals before their current contracts even expired. All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy signed a five-year, $45 million extension. Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Trent Cole signed a four-year, $48.5 million extension. Right tackle Todd Herremans signed a three-year, $21 million extension.
''This offseason has been great for me and for the team,'' Jackson said. ''It's going to be an early start and I'm just happy to be back. I'm just excited.''
On a talent-rich offense, McCoy just might be the best all-around player. He had 1,309 yards rushing and led the NFL with 17 touchdowns on the ground last year. He also caught 48 passes for 315 yards and three TDs. His breakout season earned him plenty of respect and helped him make the big bucks.
''You want to be known as a good player around the league,'' McCoy said. ''I think guys are gunning for you and that's cool. In this game and in this league, you are here to compete. The biggest thing is competing. I have a good team and a good supporting cast around me, so it is really hard to just focus in on me. I think that's kind of the luxury I do have playing with the Eagles. We have so many different talents on offense, so it's difficult to pick out one player.''
While McCoy, Jackson and Maclin are important to Philadelphia's success, the team will only go as far as Vick can take them. The four-time Pro Bowl QB must stay healthy and also improve on protecting the ball.
Vick missed three games last year. The Eagles went 1-2 and missed the playoffs by one game. Vick also missed three starts in 2010 when he was The Associated Press Comeback Player of the year. He's started all 16 games just once in his career.
Vick's health is such a hot topic that even President Barack Obama took time out of his campaigning to offer some advice through Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
''Tell Vick to slide,'' Obama told Asomugha, who spoke at a fundraiser in Oakland on Monday.
Vick plans to listen.
''If he's saying it, then I've got to do it,'' Vick said. ''So the first run of the year, I'm sliding and you'll know it's for him.''
NOTES: Eagles TE Brent Celek has a sprained knee ligament. Reid said Celek could return in a few days or up to a week. Reid said the team has no interest right now in free agent TE Jeremy Shockey. ... The Eagles open the preseason Aug. 9 vs. Pittsburgh.