As Chip Kelly made his way into historic Franklin Field, a fan in the stands a stone’s throw away screamed out, ‘Hey, Chip!’ The coach shot a quick look up and saw a shirtless man with arms spread wide, eager to show off an Eagles tattoo just below his neck that ran shoulder to shoulder.
Later, Kelly went to the edge of those stands as Eagles chants rained down, taking extended time to shake hands and chat up the crowd. He autographed a couple jerseys on his way out and posed for some photos and a little conversation with those that requested it before hopping onto the team bus on 33rd street. The players followed suit.
Some 28,000 fans turned out for Sunday’s practice to see a memorable blending of present and past. It was the most intimate setting for a training camp practice that we’ve seen since Kelly was hired and the scene shifted from Lehigh back to Philly.
Prior to practice, a host of Eagles alumni were introduced as current players lined up on either side to greet them. The group included many that played on these fields, including Tommy McDonald, Pete Retzlaff and Chuck Bednarik. “Concrete Charlie” was the last one introduced and drew a loud ovation as he made his way through the line with the assistance of a walker.
“It’s great to see guys who have done it in the past,” said DeMeco Ryans. “Great to see Chuck Bednarik, a guy who got it done on both sides of the ball, a college award named after him. It was special meeting him.”
“We always talk about the tradition of what the Philadelphia Eagles are all about,” said Kelly. “Obviously the turnout you have here is awesome. A chance to get out in front of the fans. To be able to play in a special place like this, it’s neat for them to be able to understand the history of the team.”
The Eagles practiced in shorts Sunday since they were just a couple days removed from the preseason opener with the Bears. Nick Foles, for one, said he was glad to be back at it after a rough outing in Chicago.
What was he working on?
“Just making smart decisions. If I don’t have it, throw it away. Staying on time. Moving in the pocket,” he said. “It’s just the little things, getting back to what I was doing last season — just moving in the pocket and making good decisions and moving the ball.”
Riley Cooper returned to practice but didn’t take part in all team drills. As such, the first team receivers included Jeremy Maclin, Ifeanyi Momah and Brad Smith. Foles looked better overall but still does’t seem quite in sync with his wideouts.
“I felt good about today. I want to progress, look at the game film from today’s practice and make it even better tomorrow,” said Foles.
The Eagles have a short practice Monday before heading up to New England for their joint sessions with the Patriots. Kelly said there will be a couple physical practices with the Pats on Tuesday and Wednesday and then a lighter day on Thursday in front of Friday’s exhibition game in Foxboro.