Inside Voices: How The Training Is Different

Chip Kelly
Under Chip Kelly, the Eagles have quickly become known as an organization on the cutting edge when it comes to the training and maintenance of their athletes.

One veteran after the next last year said that their bodies had never felt better. Soft tissue injuries were down. Stamina was up.

What sets them apart?

To help get a better understanding, we called on some newcomers to explain what differentiates Kelly’s operation from others they have been a part of at their previous stops.

“One is the practice tempo. Two, the way that we prepare for practice is different from where I was before as far as getting our body geared up,” said Nolan Carroll.

“I think another thing we do well is recover. We have a whole staff dedicated just to getting us to recover. Every single day when we come in here in the morning, we have assessments that we do to monitor how our body is feeling from the day before and I think that’s something that no other team in the league is doing right now. It helps us as far as eliminating injuries that most other places you wouldn’t be able to recognize until it’s too late. They do a good job knowing when we’re feeling bad and what injuries might occur and ways to prevent them.

“I think this place does the best job in the National Football League as far as those three aspects of it.”

There are several steps that the players go through before they get to fly around the practice field. Every morning they fill out a wellness questionnaire on their iPads that asks about body soreness and the like. That combined with other data that the sports science department collects helps paint a better picture of how the athlete is feeling and what he needs on a given day, allowing for a more personalized training regimen.

The players hit the weight room early in the day to “activate” their bodies. Then it’s on to “Training Prep.” Here they are divided into groups based on their specific needs. This is primarily for soft tissue work. They might use resistance bands or foam rollers to help get properly loosened up. Once on the field there is a ramping up period before they are cleared for takeoff.

Malcolm Jenkins notes that where some teams have conditioning programs, the Eagles do most of their conditioning during practice.

“Sometimes when you do conditioning, you might do linear stuff that’s 100-yard sprints but rarely in a game are you running 100 yards,” Jenkins explained. “What we’re doing is quick bursts full speed and then short rests. Quick bursts, full speed in our training, practice and in the game and I think it translates well. You see us in the fourth quarter really with the same speed we had in the first quarter. We wear down teams because I don’t think anybody really trains for the tempo that we play at.”

Once practice is over, the players shift into recovery. There are cold tubs and Epsom salt baths. There’s massage therapy and other methods that help promote blood flow and healing.

It’s an intensive process, but one that seems to lead to optimum performance.

“They have so much scientific research and all this kind of stuff that they show us,” said Chris Maragos. “I’m just trying to apply that to better my game, better my health, everything.”

Barkley On Trade Rumors

Matt Barkley is all about the latest tech gadgets. When we caught up with him this week he was checking out the size options for the new iPhone and debating whether he should purchase the Apple Watch. Whatever the device, you’ll also find him on social media a good amount.

As plugged in as he is to that world, surely the trade speculation made its way onto his feed?

“Not too many mentions but my dad actually told me before I saw it. I don’t search for my name or do anything like that,” said Barkley.

“I never heard anything on this side and you usually never do until something does happen. Who knows if those were true or not or [the likelihood] that it was going to happen. It’s always a good reminder of what a business this is and that anything can happen and that you can bounce around.”

Word was that the Texans were in pursuit of Barkley before trading for Ryan Mallett. Houston eventually gave up a conditional seventh-round pick for Mallett.

“I think it was, from what they were saying, they were positive things about them wanting me and the Eagles not wanting to get rid of me,” said Barkley. “I don’t know exactly what happened but I know I put my best foot forward in preseason and I gave a good shot to show everyone what type of player I was, where I am and can be, so if anything I see it as a positive.

“There is exciting parts and there are disappointing things to hear about it. I think in any case if you’re going to play and get reps it can be exciting, then you have the down side of moving and your family relocating and all that stuff, the relationships you made here. But I think you have to look at it as an opportunity to be able to play and get more experience.

“But it it didn’t happen this year.”

 Reynolds’ Ride

Ed Reynolds is an example of how the NCAA graduation rule can hurt a player.

Like Zach Ertz last year, Reynolds was forced to miss a good amount of the offseason training program. Stanford has a later graduation date, the rule states that rookies can’t participate in OTAs until the senior class walks, and so he sat. Like Ertz, he fell behind.

“Having that time where I wasn’t here for the offseason, it wasn’t so much that it set me back mentally but those physical reps is a huge thing. I could watch all the videos and the all the tapes on my iPad but to go out there to get those physical reps and get that muscle memory,” he said.

“It’s definitely archaic. It’s outdated. It needs to be changed because to hold somebody back, let the athlete have the option if he’s enrolled to try and finish up through whatever means possible but let him have the option. If he wants to go be a part of his team, let him go do that. Hopefully something gets done for guys in the future.”

The fifth-round pick was released on cut-down day in late August. He met with Chip Kelly, Billy Davis, his position coach and Howie Roseman after the news came down.

“They gave me the news how numbers wise, they usually take 10 or 11 DBs with five instead of four safeties and that this year, at least for the first game, it wasn’t going to work out that way,” he said. “They took an extra tight end, an extra d-lineman, took some extra players at other spots, but that they wanted me if I cleared waivers to come back on practice squad.

“Obviously [being on the 53] is what you work for but sitting down with Coach Kelly and being able to talk [helped]. He told me, ‘Look, we spent a draft pick on you. We did it because we felt like you can help this organization, this team. It’s just the business side, the way the numbers worked out, we’re going to have to release you and just see what happens from there.'”

The next 24 hours was a waiting game. Ultimately, Reynolds ended up making it through waivers and was signed to the Eagles’ practice squad.

“The mindset went from ‘OK, who am I playing for?’ to, ‘How can I help this team get better?’”

“It wasn’t so bad because I knew in the end that Philly wanted me back and I had a job somewhere. Maybe not on the active roster, maybe not what I wanted from the beginning, but it was a job, a foot in the door.

“The way the practice squad works is any team can come get you, so every day the film that I put out there on the field is my resume, so whether it’s being pulled up on the active roster here or getting a chance to get on an active roster somewhere else, I’m just making sure I’m always trying to become a better player.”