Training Camp Begins For Philadelphia Eagles
ROBERT SIEGEL, host: By tomorrow, all 32 NFL teams will have begun training camp. Because the football teams couldn't negotiate deals during the summer, when a lockout was in effect, there's been a recent flood of rookie and free agent signings. Not only are rosters in flux, the rules regulating practice are different as a result of the contract players and owners just agreed to. NPR's Mike Pesca reports on how teams are dealing with the frenzy.
MIKE PESCA: Like the first flower of spring or the first dusting of winter, the NFL season got underway not with an official footumnal equinox, but this occurrence - the first Bill Belichick non answer.
BILL BELICHICK: I can't really comment on that at this point until it's completed, if it does get completed.
PESCA: The non-emotive New England coach would not talk about free agent acquisitions, but soon enough the football world was doing the talking for him. His Patriots acquired massive defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, who, should he be so inclined, can lay waste to most offenses. It was in all senses a huge signing but not a singular one.
PESCA: The last few days have seen an unprecedented scramble for scramblers and rush of pass rushers. At Eagles training camp, Howie Roseman, Philadelphia's general manager, wouldn't discuss two or three big deals that were in the works. He did allow that the Eagles had just traded quarterback Kevin Kolb to Arizona for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. When asked if the quick decision making of the last few days was like playing speed chess, Roseman simply smiled and offered:
HOWIE ROSEMAN: It's fun. It's exciting.
(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE BLOWING)
PESCA: In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, player after player for the Philadelphia Eagles talked about how exciting it was to be back in uniform. It was a scene echoed 10 times a day for each of the last three days as NFL teams took to practice fields across America. And every time they checked back in with the outside world, there was news of a new batch of rookie and free agent signings.
PESCA: These Eagles, for instance, picked up Vince Young as their new backup quarterback. Young had been released by Tennessee because of the presence of Matt Hasselbeck, shipped over from Seattle. If Hasselbeck had stayed a Seahawk, he might have gotten a chance to throw to wide receiver Sidney Rice. If Rice had stayed a Viking, he might have gotten a chance to catch a pass from Minnesota's new QB, Donovan McNabb. McNabb, by the way, pushed out Minnesota's old quarterback, Tavaris Jackson, who also has landed in Seattle. I think I need to take a knee.
(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE AND HORN BLOWING)
PESCA: The on-field rules are different too - less hitting, but not more sitting, says Eagles center Jamal Jackson.
JAMAL JACKSON: The earlier practices, of course, you got to have, like, the walkthroughs or whatnot, but, you know, Coach Reid is doing a good job of easing us into it, you know, not just coming out, just banging each other's bodies because, you know, we've been out the whole off-season. But, you know, pretty soon we'll get things revved up and, you know, it'll be just like old days.
PESCA: Jackson was perhaps the only player or coach in the entire NFL who did not feel the need to point out that the new rules were in fact uniform.
ANDY REID: But you know what it is, its equal opportunity all the way throughout the league.
JASON CAMPBELL: You know, we got a short time frame to get ready but, you know, everyone's doing it around the league.
JOHN FOX: You know, relative to the rest of the league, we're not behind them.
NORV TURNER: The good news is the whole league's operating under it.
PESCA: The reason the Eagles' Andy Reid, the Raiders' Jason Campbell, the Broncos' John Fox and Norv Turner of the Chargers all were making the same point is that fans and beat reporters worry how change will affect the game they love. And as far as the issue of love, it has been suggested that perhaps fans will be a bit jilted. Eagles tackle King Dunlap doesn't think so.
KING DUNLAP: I mean, the fans are upset because we had a lockout but honestly in the end of things they really didn't miss anything at all. They'll be all right.
PESCA: This week, most teams will begin to open their practices to fans and every prediction is that turnout will be as impressive as always. If anything, fast and furious free agency has become a kind of rapid fire fun that echoes the game itself. Mike Pesca, NPR News.
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