The Eagles on Thursday had an uncharacteristically tough practice for December. They were in full pads for the entire hour and 45-minute session.
Doug Pederson just thought they needed it.
“It kind of set the tone,” Brandon Brooks said. “This isn’t a cakewalk. This isn’t a walkthrough. This isn’t something where you lose a game and it’s back to regularly scheduled programming.”
In the last couple seasons, this is the time of year where Pederson has really scaled back practices. Thanks to injuries and attrition, the last couple Decembers have seen more walkthroughs than real practices.
So going in full pads four days after a loss is quite a shakeup and a pretty strong message for the head coach to send to his disappointing 5-7 team.
“Doug’s always got a great feel for that stuff,” Zach Ertz said. “It think that was needed today.”
Players said there was no complaining about that unusually tough practice and it led to a spirited afternoon at the NovaCare Complex. Ertz is right; Pederson in the past has always had a knack for pushing the right buttons. Early returns on this button push were good.
It was also a good sign that Pederson was right about something he said earlier in the day:
Despite the record and the disappointment, Pederson still thinks the locker room is behind him.
“I do,” Pederson said. “I really do.”
The head coach said he knows the locker room is behind him because he can “just sense and feel the energy of the group.”
For this coach, that’s not nothing. Pederson, from the moment he was hired, was said to be a players’ coach. Remember all that emotional intelligence talk? And, as a former player, the idea was that he could relate to the guys in the locker room. Over his first three years as a head coach, that has paid off.
Now, even on the heels of a three-game losing streak in what has been a wildly disappointing season, it still seems like his players are still supporting him.
“Oh, 100 percent. We always have Doug’s back,” Brooks said. “As with anything with brothers, you’re going to have arguments here and there, but as far as having Doug’s back, we’ll always have Doug’s back. A lot of guys, including myself, would run through a wall for Doug. Any direction he leads us, we’ll follow.”
Brandon Graham, one of the longest-tenured players on the team, said he can see that players are buying in because of their acceptance of their roles. Players who want more reps still want more reps, but they’re happy to do whatever they can to help the team get better. Those players have not become “cancerous,” as Graham put it.
There’s still effort. There’s still buy-in. There’s still faith in their process.
“I’ve seen it go the other way,” Graham said. “The Dream Team year was crazy. That was a crazy year. All the expectation and when things was bad, it was bad. It was just a lot of dysfunction after that.”
While it certainly seems like the locker room is behind Pederson, it’s important to remember that 53 individuals make up the team. We often seem to talk about “the locker room” in general terms but that’s assuming everyone is thinking the same way, which probably isn’t the case.
That was why Josh McCown, the oldest player on the team, was hesitant to speak for anyone but himself. But, speaking for himself, McCown said he thinks Pederson has done an “excellent job” leading the team this year.
Actions, of course, speak louder than words. We’ll see if Pederson’s messages are getting through in these last four games.
“Doug still rules with an iron fist,” Brooks said. “Like I said, wherever he leads us, we’ll go.”
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