It's been 18 years since Andy Reid's first training camp as head coach of the Eagles. Those who were a part of it will never forget it.
"It was brutal," Doug Pederson said recently. "It was hot. It was long. It was physical. It was bruising.
"It was before the rule changes, so we hit all the time. We were allowed to go full two-a-days. They were physical practices. Just tough. Real tough."
Pederson was a 31-year-old quarterback with the Eagles that summer, and those ferocious Reid training camps helped shape the training camps he runs now as head coach of the Eagles.
Reid's first three training camps — 1999, 2000 and 2001 — were insane.
After a walkthrough on the first day the full team was together, the players were put through three consecutive days of full-pads, full-contact two-a-days and then began the fourth day with another live, full-pads session.
So from 8:30 a.m. on Day 1 until 11:30 a.m. on Day 4, the team was on the field for seven live full-contact practices.
That's roughly 18 hours of contact in the span of 75 hours.
“Ask Duce (Staley), ask any of the guys who were here that summer, they still talk about it," Pederson said "It was hard, it was tough. We hit a lot that first year. I think Coach was trying to send a message that we were going to be a physical football team.
"Obviously with the rule changes and the way the CBA is you can’t be that aggressive anymore, but it was tough. It did bring the team together. You learn to protect each other, you learn to practice and play fast. It definitely brought us together."
The rules have changed dramatically. At first, the NFL outlawed hitting in the afternoon practice, then eliminated pads in the afternoon practice, then eliminated the second practice entirely. An afternoon walkthrough is currently allowed, although the total time of both practices has to be less than four hours.
The current NFL collective bargaining agreement limits how often teams can hit during training camp, and Pederson — who worked under Reid as a player or assistant coach with the Eagles and Chiefs for a total of nine years — said he prefers as physical a camp as possible within the current rules.
"The two-a-days to start camp over a 3½-day period, obviously you can’t do that anymore," he said. "But at the same time, I can pick some spots and choose some days that we can go live.
"I don’t want to do it a ton in camp, but at the same time, guys have got to feel contact, they’ve got to feel the ground. You know, injuries are part of the game. Whether it’s in training camp or in the regular season, obviously you don’t like to see it, but at the same time we can be smart about it, protect each other and still be in pads and get the work done."
Pederson's 2017 camp gets underway Monday at the NovaCare Complex with rookies, quarterbacks and veterans who finished 2016 on Injured Reserve. The full team will be on the field for the first time Thursday.
We saw last year that Pederson's practices are dramatically more physical than those of Chip Kelly, who didn't believe in tackling to the ground at all.
“I think (practices vary depending on) the philosophy of each head coach around the league," Pederson said. "I just feel like this is what works for us.
"You’ve got to play in pads so might as well put them on and use them. Just getting the soreness out. You’ve just got to get used to hitting. It’s a physical game. You’ve got to learn how to tackle properly. Running backs have to learn how to get hit and protect the football, so I think it’s important to continue to have that.
"I do think there’s a fine line. Don’t get me wrong. You don’t go over the top with it. Plus, you’re only down to one practice a day right now.
"But I think you can maintain that physicality and you can maintain that hitting in camp and just be smart about it. It doesn’t have to be live every single day."
Pederson said there will be three live tackling days during camp this summer, the same as last year.
"I feel like it's important that the guys hit," he said. "It's a physical game, and it's hard sometimes just to show up on game day and just put the pads on and go hit if you haven't at least prepped them for it.
"Three live days, I think, is plenty. I think two of them are before Green Bay (preseason opener on Aug. 10) and one of them is after Green Bay, so it kind of … gets them into that physical mentality that you want, especially early in training camp."
Pederson also said he won't hesitate to make changes as camp continues depending on how he sees the players responding to the daily workload.
“If we need to increase it, we’ll increase it, if we need to back it down, we’ll back it down," he said. "I’m not naive. You stay in-tune with how they’re doing and adjust it however you need to."