Eagles Wake-Up Call: 5 Things I’ll Miss About Lehigh

Training camp moving to Philly is pretty much a good thing for me. I live 15 minutes from the complex. Gone are the hour-and-a-half commutes. No more battling traffic on 309. The days are shorter and I’ll have fewer opportunities to jam fast food down my gullet on the ride home. My wife is psyched because in theory (in theory) I should be able to hold up my end of the bargain on the home front a bit better.

Lots of positives. But a tradition is ending and with training camp around the corner, I’m getting a little sentimental about an era gone by. So,I figured I’d list the five things I’ll miss the most about training camp at Lehigh.

1) The common struggle. If you’re a Philadelphian and you want to watch the Eagles practice, then dammit, you will wake up at 5 am, be on the road by 6, power up the Northeast extension, park your weary car at the bottom of the hill, walk your sorry tail up to the practice fields, and you will bake in that Bethlehem sun for the next six hours and like it.

Anyone can go to a practice at the Linc. But to be part of training camp at Lehigh, you had to earn it. And something about that was pretty cool.

2) The Trailer Of Doom. The media trailer was that of legend. Parked just off the practice fields, this is where we spent a lot of our time in between sessions. Bare bones stuff. Just wood tables, metal chairs and out-of-shape reporters. It inevitably would take on the look of a frat house as camp wore on, with pizza boxes and water bottles and beer cans overflowing from the trash cans onto the tables and floors. Smelled like a combination of suntan lotion, sweat, and, well, old beer and pizza. Only thing worse was the Porta Potty a few yards away that we were stuck with.

Why would I miss such a thing? No idea.

3) Walking into Deja Brew for a bite to eat only to find a barefooted Reuben Frank lounging on the couch, iced tea in hand, jamming to The Kinks. Don’t think they’ll let him get away with that in the NovaCare cafeteria, though I’d love to see it. And the sandwiches. They have killer sandwiches.

4) The unique setting. You only spend a couple weeks in the tranquil hills of Lehigh, then it disappears from your life for the rest of the year. That makes the memories hatched there all the more vivid. I don’t have the best recall in the world, but I can remember exactly where Michael Vick stood when he first addressed reporters following his birthday party-gone-wrong in the summer of 2010. (He was pinned against the brick wall of the check-in building, across from the Sayre Park dorms, just left of the exit.) There are a hundred other examples. All events, both big and small, resonate a bit more because of the original backdrop.

5) The fan-player intimacy. I’m sure the Eagles’ brass has spent lots of hours trying to figure out how to best bottle the Lehigh feel and ship it down to South Philly. But it will be tough to do. There are simply fewer dates for players and fans to be together, and practice at a stadium is sure to feel far more structured than one on a remote college campus. More barriers, less common ground, despite their intentions.

The Eagles are changing with the times, and much of the change is for the better. But we have a soft spot in our hearts for Lehigh.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The odds are against the Eagles in the NFC East race.

A look at where the Eagles draft picks stand going into training camp.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Pro Football Focus did a study on how the respective NFC East quarterbacks respond to pressure. On Vick:

Vick struggles when pressure comes off either tackle and, like most quarterbacks, he struggles when it comes through the center as well. The Eagles invested in first-round OT Lane Johnson who is projected to start at right tackle and if he lives up to the hype, they’ll have solid bookends with the return of LT Jason Peters. Interestingly enough, Vick’s best work comes when pressure comes through left guard, but Evan Mathis’ strong pass protection makes that a rare sight.

Could the Eagles turn to Matt Barkley? Chris McPherson of PhiladelphiaEagles.com offers his thoughts.

In a word, yes. Barkley was drafted by the Eagles with the first pick in the fourth round after the team ranked him as one of the 50 best players in the entire NFL Draft. Barkley was potentially a surefire first-round pick in the past, but he has done nothing but look ahead to the future since arriving in Philadelphia. Assistant coaches have praised Barkley for his work ethic and he’s shown uncommon poise for a first-year player.

COMING UP

Thirteen days until training camp.

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