If you were born and raised on a couple three-hour practices a day at Eagles training camp, things have changed. A lot.
The CBA now limits teams to one practice per day — as well as a walkthrough — and caps the single practice at 2½ hours.
The Eagles have been practicing about half that.
Nick Sirianni’s practices are crisp and efficient, but they’re also incredibly short. Through the first seven days of camp, only one practice has gone beyond 90 minutes, and that was a 1:45 no-pads practice on Saturday evening.
Four practices have been 75 minutes and the average practice has lasted just under an hour and a half.
To understand why, all you have to do is look at the Eagles’ injury list from the last three years.
The Eagles have tried a lot of things to get through a season relatively healthy, but they’ve been the most-injured team in the league since the start of 2018. Last year, they were second to the 49ers.
There’s been a gradual shift in the NFL over the last 10 years or so to focus more and more on film study, classroom work and meetings to keep players off their feet and help them get through a 16-game season — now a 17-game season.
The Eagles have taken that to record levels.
They work all day. But practice is just a small part of it.
“All that goes down to player health,” Sirianni said before practice Thursday. “I’m not the expert in that, so myself and our strength staff and our training staff and our doctors and Howie (Roseman), we all get together and we talked about, ‘We have so much ability on the field, how do we keep them available?’ Because if they’re not available, that ability’s worth nothing.”
It’s not like training camp is a country club. When they’re practicing, they go hard, and the first week has been physical, even on days the players aren’t padded up.
But there’s no doubt this is a different way of preparing a football team for the season.
“When we’re out here and we’re working, the standard is set very clear of how we want practice to be,” Sirianni said. “So we feel like we’re out here enough. … Keep the guys healthy, but when we’re out here, we’re going and we’re really rolling and we’re practicing hard because practicing hard — which we talk about as a group all the time — is how you get better every single day.”
There are often Eagles alumni watching practice at the NovaCare Complex, and they’re generally in disbelief when they see a 10 a.m. practice wrap up at 11:15 a.m. But this is the wave of the future. Get them on the field, get as much work in as quickly as possible, and then get them inside.
Sirianni has added a developmental period after practice so the veterans can head inside or do some individual work on the side while the younger players can continue doing some group drills.
And he said the walkthroughs — which are closed to the media — are a second productive way to have the players on the field without any contact or full-speed drills.
“Just because they’re not practicing for … three hours, 2½ hours, with the walkthroughs we’re full-speed mentally,” he said. “We’re still walking through, but it’s full-speed to the snap. We’re still meeting full-speed. We’re still connecting full-speed when we’re [inside]. It’s all these things. Practice is one piece of the puzzle. It’s a big piece, and there’s all these other pieces to get us ready and we’re doing those just like we are any other year.”
When you’re only on the field an hour and a half — or less — there has to be a premium on making the most of that short period of time.
And watching practice, you don’t see a wasted moment.
“It’s about being highly organized and everybody communicating,” Sirianni said. “You talk at length about what practice is going to look like. ‘Hey, we’re going [from] period one to period two to period three, here’s where these guys are on the field, here’s where those guys are on the field, here’s where we go 1’s vs. 1’s, here’s what field they’re going to be on.’
"It’s just organization and communication to make sure while we were out here — our practices are an hour 15, an hour 30, an hour 45, that can go north or south any day, just based off the day — but when you’re out here, you’re highly organized and you’re not taking any time in between periods.”
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