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Questions abound as Eagles report
Temporary green arrows affixed to signposts and telephone poles directed a series of Range Rovers and Cadillac Escalades up the winding roads that surround Lehigh University.
Yes, the NFL is back.
Philadelphia Eagles players — at least ones who aren’t potentially holding out (receiver DeSean Jacksion) or traded (quarterback Kevin Kolb) — went through physicals and checked into their dorm rooms here Wednesday. That group included Michael Vick, who enters camp as the starting quarterback for the first time since he was with the Atlanta Falcons five years ago.
“We’re here. Training camp is here,” Vick said before he removed a flat-screen TV from his SUV and carried it to his dorm. “We are very relieved.”
Officially, veterans don’t have to report until Thursday for the first 10 teams allowed to open camp. With a tentative agreement to end the four-month lockout having come Monday, the league decided it was best to establish a grace period.
Still, a couple of veterans were expected to blow past that deadline.
Kolb, who lost his starting job to Vick last season, is expected to be dealt, although no trade had been made official as of Wednesday evening. Meanwhile, Jackson is expected to hold out of camp as he angles for a new contract.
“We’ll see how things go,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said of Kolb.
“Like I said, we’ll see how things go,” Reid added.
The Eagles had 80 players signed as of Wednesday, including 10 of their 11 draft picks. (Philly came to terms with 18 players through Wednesday evening.) The lone unsigned pick was first-round selection Danny Watkins, an offensive lineman out of Baylor University selected 23rd overall.
Reid said the team will go through its first walk-through Thursday and they won’t be in full pads until Sunday. New league rules prevent two-a-days, grueling workouts that Reid was known for during his long tenure in Philly.
“Change is hard for everybody,” Reid said. “I really didn’t care. I prepped for it. It is what it is. It doesn’t bother me. I’m more progressive than that. If it’s given to me, I’m going to try to solve it. I think we have a pretty good plan. We’ll see how it goes.”
Reid and the players who found their way into the Lehigh University dorms agreed that the rookies face the toughest task. Because of the lockout, teams were not allowed to contact players — even to hand out playbooks. That also meant no organized team activities (OTAs) and other offseason contact where new players could begin to comprehend offensive, defensive and special teams schemes.
“It’s going to be tough. There’s no doubt about it,” Eagles safety Kurt Coleman said. “I think it’s going to be my job and the job of a lot of other players who have been here to try to give them a leg up.”
While a compressed learning curve and rule changes on how often teams are allowed to don pads in training camp are new, Reid said he was happy to see no change in where the team held camp. The abrupt end to the lockout meant many teams scrapped plans for off-site training camp, preferring to stay at their typical in-season training facilities for camp.
“I love coming up here because it puts everybody together,” Reid said. “For players who don’t know each other or haven’t been through training camp, maybe it’s even more important. They’re housed together and they have to make it work. You’re up here and not a lot of other things are going on.”
Along with giving blood samples, getting their eyes checked and other elements of physicals, Eagles players had another major procedure in which to take part: a union recertification vote.
“I think that’s real important to get the guys to sign those cards,” said tackle Winston Justice, the Eagles’ player rep. “One of the main reasons we wanted to get into camp was get all those guys in one place to sign those cards.”
The NFL Players Association decertified as a union in March in order for 10 players to pursue an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL. Player representatives and NFLPA’s executive board agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement, but the pact won’t become official until the NFLPA — currently considered a trade association — is reconstituted as a union and its membership approves the CBA.
Both take a simple majority and the process needs to be completed by Aug. 4, neither of which Justice said should be a problem.
The vote is another reminder of the business of the NFL, which consumed the offseason discussion that usually centers on trades and free agency. Fans will be allowed to watch their first Eagles practice from Lehigh University on Saturday, and Coleman said he’s confident there will be little to no fan hangover from the lockout.
“I have talked to several Philly fans,” Coleman said. “I think they are excited that football is under way and on schedule. I know Philly fans will always be with us no matter what. I know they are going to be out there cheering for us.”
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