They waited nearly seven months. And then a day.
After the threat of rain pushed the Eagles' first open practice of 2017 from Saturday to Sunday, 23,000 fans packed into the Linc on a near perfect morning to get their initial in-person taste of the green and white.
But while Sunday was an opportunity for the Birds faithful to watch their team close out the first week of training camp, it was also a chance for a handful of new faces to experience Philly fans for the first time. And head coach Doug Pederson gave two of his most dangerous offensive weapons plenty of time to shine with 1-on-1 drills throughout much of the latter half of practice.
"It was a great experience," wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said. "We had a lot of fun out here, slinging the ball, making plays. It was great for competition but also great for the city of Philly. ... A lot of people came out here to support. It means a lot to the city. It’s new to me, but it was a great experience."
On the other side of the field, fellow wideout Torrey Smith held court, soaking in the atmosphere and posing for photos with a handful of fans.
"I’ve been around two of the best fan bases in Baltimore and San Francisco, but I don’t think there’s anything like this with a massive fan base," Smith said.
"They’re very passionate and I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s cool for us to break from each other and be in front of the fans."
Following a season in which Carson Wentz was often searching for outside targets and options deep down the field, the Eagles have five solid receivers and a handful of players competing for the sixth spot. So whether it was Jeffery breaking a cornerback's ankles, Smith hauling in a deep bomb from Wentz right at the front pylon or Nelson Agholor and Marcus Johnson blowing past their defenders for easy scores, there were oohs and aahs throughout the crowd.
And the guys on the field certainly felt a different energy as well.
“Everyone’s a little more ramped up," Smith said. "We get a reaction when big plays happen so your adrenaline’s definitely going a little more.”
Although the excitement Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field was new for some, it was a welcome return for others. Nearly 1,000 days removed from his last game in an Eagles uniform, Nick Foles was anxious to walk back onto the turf where he put up the best season of his career just four years ago.
"I knew the moment I stepped back on this field would be really emotional," Foles said. "I believe when LeSean McCoy came back here he kissed the Eagle, and trust me, I’ve thought about stepping on this field even though it’s only for a practice for a while.
"You reminisce on a lot of times, a lot of great memories in this city and there always will be, so it’s really cool to be back on this field and with this team. It’s been a special day, even though I couldn’t practice, to see the fans, see the atmosphere and just see the excitement ready for this season."
With a sore throwing arm, Foles stood on the sidelines for a second straight day (see Sunday's practice observations), but when he was reintroduced to the crowd, it felt like he'd never left. Despite a two-year stretch in which the Arizona alum played just 14 combined games in St. Louis and Kansas City, throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions, Foles was ready to be back with "the most unique fan base" he's ever been around.
"I’ve been around great fans with other teams — obviously, Arrowhead and Kansas City, that’s one of the loudest places to play and I really enjoyed that," Foles said.
"Those fans were awesome, but this place is so unique and the reason being that they live or die with the Eagles. And I felt that when I played here. We win and the city’s on fire and when we lose it’s not a fun week. We feel the same thing, so like I talked about in my previous press conference, you have the boos, you have all this stuff and there’s nothing better than playing in this stadium at the Linc. It’s my favorite place to play and I’m excited to play here again."