Eagles fired up to finally clobber each other
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Rewind to OTAs back at the NovaCare Complex in May.
Receiver Ron Johnson snags a quick out near the left sideline, and linebacker Monte Simmons has him lined up perfectly to make a huge hit.
A moment before Simmons clobbers Johnson, he backs off and lets Johnson race down the field.
“Man,” Simmons yells to nobody in particular. “I want to hit that.”
Now, he gets that chance.
Simmons and the rest of the Eagles will go live Saturday afternoon for the first time at 2012 training camp at Lehigh University.
We’ve had three days of rookie camp. One short, uneventful full-team practice. And on Friday, an engaging two-hour full-time session without contact.
After 6 1/2 months of studying their playbooks, meeting with their coaches and practicing in shorts, it’s time to play football again.
The hitting begins today.
Simmons remembers that day back in the spring. He’s been waiting a long time for this. They all have.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been out on the field hitting somebody, so this is an opportunity and I’ve got to taken advantage of it,” said Simmons, a linebacker who spent all of last year on the 49ers’ practice squad. “Can’t wait to get the chance to put some pads on and hit somebody and show everybody what I can do.”
The Eagles went through a walk-through at 8:15 a.m. The first full-pads practice with live periods is scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m.
“Everybody’s always excited about that first day in pads,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “It’s going to be good to get back into it. That’s why we love this game -- the contact and the physical nature. Guys are excited about it. It’s going to be a pretty fun day.
“Being in shorts and helmets or back in OTAs and minicamps, it was just all about what can you do athletically? Can you run and cover guys? Now it’s going to be about showing your physical presence. It’s going to be about getting off of blocks and tackling and making plays.
“It’s going to be about how football is really played.”
The new CBA restricts the number of full-contact practices any NFL can hold at training camp. Head coach Andy Reid has promised he’ll squeeze as many live sessions as he can into the next few weeks.
For a kid like Curtis Marsh, this stretch is huge. After playing only 12 snaps last year, he’s the early leader for the third corner job. We know he’s smart and fast. But can he hit? Can he tackle?
“For someone like me, being a rookie last year, once camp was over, you don’t get those opportunities anymore to show what kind of player you are,” Marsh said. “You’re on scout team, and you have to kind of let the receivers catch the ball, so it’s hard to really showcase yourself.
“So these are the critical moments where you prove to the coaching staff and prove to your peers, your teammates, that, ‘Hey, I belong here, too.’ Make plays, make interceptions, make pass breakups, make tackles, and so this is where you show that you can pull your weight. And then in the preseason you show it again, and then it’s the regular season, and everybody’s counting on you to do your job.”
This will be the first summer since 2001 that the Eagles have full-contact practices in the afternoon. After the 2001 season and in light of the Aug. 1, 2001, death of Vikings lineman Korey Stringer, then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruled that teams couldn’t practice in pads twice a day.
The CBA now limits teams to one total practice per day, and this year, Reid flip-flopped the Eagles’ schedule so that one single full practice just happens to take place in the thick of the mid-day sun.
Morning or afternoon, the Eagles are ready.
“Everyone’s just ready for football to be back,” Marsh said. “Get into it and attack it. That’s our attitude this year. Just attack everything. Whatever gets thrown at us, defensively, offensively, attack it, and our next challenge is getting through that first day of hitting and then getting through the next day and then doing it consistently every day.”
The first preseason game is 12 days away. The regular-season opener is a month later. It’s time to get to work.
“We’ve done a lot of mentally preparing throughout this whole off-season, and now it’s about time to start getting our bodies conditioning,” Coleman said. “A lot of teams kind of take it soft during training camp as far as not trying to get injuries, but you play football in pads. You don’t want to play it in soft shells and shorts. Everyone’s looking forward to it, as long as nobody goes down with heat exhaustion.”
Simmons, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder out of Kent State, laughs when reminded about that play back at the NovaCare Complex during OTAs.
Starting Saturday, he won’t have to hold back anymore.
“There was a blitz [on Friday] I came on, and I was trying to hold back, but it’s hard,” he said. “Now, tomorrow, I don’t have to worry about it. It’s full out.
“You can feel the energy here. You can feel it. It’s a great vibe. Everybody’s being great teammates but also being very competitive with each other. It’s an excellent vibe. If you don’t feel it, you’ll definitely see it on Saturday.E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.