michael bennett

Michael Bennett explains OTAs absence after 1st Eagles practice

Michael Bennett explains OTAs absence after 1st Eagles practice

After his first practice as a member of the Eagles, Michael Bennett spent a few moments chatting with owner Jeff Lurie. Catching up. 

See, Bennett was with the Eagles earlier this spring, but skipped the team’s voluntary OTAs before reporting to mandatory camp on Monday morning. 

The 32-year-old NFL veteran had a pretty simple reason for skipping OTAs: they’re voluntary. 

“It’s the only job in the world that’s voluntary that people expect you to show up,” Bennett said, after he finally left Lurie’s side. “For me, the offseason is always about how to be a better parent and a better husband. So every year, I work with my kids, teaching them after school, coaching basketball, doing whatever I can. That’s the best thing about the offseason.” 

Even during his time in Seattle, Bennett skipped the voluntary workouts. Maybe it’s more troubling now that he’s trying to fit into a new defense in Philly, but his coaches didn’t seem too worried. Neither did his teammates. 

In fact, Bennett said he had been texting with some of his fellow defensive linemen like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham during his time away from the team. Bennett said he wants to first know his teammates as men before he knows them as football players. 

Tuesday was just Day 1 for Bennett in an Eagles uniform, but he already seems to be fitting in. He already feels “pretty comfortable” with the playbook and seems to be a logical fit in the locker room. 

“I think the culture is just one of a kind,” Bennett said. “I think we have a lot of great coaches, obviously. But then the coaches are all about family, about team and you see it throughout the organization. Whether it’s the equipment guys, training staff, everybody is about the team, that family.”

It’s pretty easy to see how Bennett should fit with the Eagles on the field. He’s a versatile Pro Bowl defensive end who should be able to add to a group that was already one of the best in the NFL. 

He took second-team reps at defensive end on Tuesday, but head coach Doug Pederson said Bennett will be worked in with the first team during this mandatory minicamp. After all, the Eagles didn’t trade for Bennett to make him a spectator. 

“I think coming here, you want to be an All-Star just like you’ve been,” Bennett said. “You want to be one of the top players in the league and you come in with that. I think the organization is expecting that. They’re not expecting me to come in and sit back. They’re expecting me to come in and dominate on the field and that’s my job. Obviously, every day I take the field, that’s my mindset.” 

Off the field, Bennett is facing felony charges for injury to the elderly, stemming from an incident after Super Bowl LI. The 32-year-old didn’t want to talk too much about the incident, saying he’ll let his lawyer handle it for him. 

Aside from the court case, Bennett has never shied away from the public spotlight or from being outspoken about politics, race and other important issues. He also plans on becoming a part of the community in Philly. 

“I think you just want to be a great citizen,” he said. “When you come into a city, you want to feel the atmosphere of the city. You want to visit schools, you want to visit people, eat the food and just immerse yourself in the culture. It’s a new culture for me, coming from Seattle. It’s a whole different vibe and I’m liking it. I think it’s an opportunity to grow as a person and grow with my family in a new situation.”

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The Eagles were back at practice on Tuesday and the whole gang was there. 

Every Eagles player who was healthy enough to be on the practice field today was there, including Michael Bennett and Darren Sproles. 

The Eagles cut their practice a little short but not before getting plenty of competitive work in. Let’s start with a couple of anticipated new arrivals:

1. Mighty Mouse was back after skipping the OTAs. The 34-year-old Sproles says he’s 100 percent but coaches are being cautious with him. That explains why he didn’t get a whole lot of reps in his first practice back. 

But what we did see from Sproles wasn’t surprising. He’s still a physical freak. He didn’t do much, but he still obviously has his quickness. 

The most telling thing about Sproles is how he’s already being a leader for his teammates. First day back and even though he wasn’t fielding punts, he was running with the returners and then giving them tips as they waited in line to get their turn. On Monday, Duce Staley said there’s no question: Sproles is the leader of the running back room. 

And while we’re at it, we have seen the same thing from Jason Peters. For some reason, he helped break down the huddle for the third-team offense once and walked across two fields talking with rookie Jordan Mailata (the rugby project). 

Sproles and Peters are still expected to play at a really high level this year, but they bring more than that. 

2. Bennett made his Eagles practice debut. Before the session, head coach Doug Pederson said Bennett would be worked in with the first team over this minicamp, but he wasn’t with the ones today. 

Instead, Bennett was the left defensive end with the second team, while Chris Long and Derek Barnett worked with the starters. That doesn’t mean much yet, but it’s at least a starting point (see story)

Couldn’t see much from Bennett in one practice, but watching him during individual drills, the thing that did stand out were his hands. They looked violent. 

3. As always, I took attendance at practice. Alshon Jeffery was there, but is still not ready to practice. Brandon Graham (ankle) and Tim Jernigan (back) weren’t out there either. 

Sidney Jones missed practice after already missing some time last week. In the locker room, Jones said he’s doing OK, but is being held out with soreness. Haloti Ngata, Chris Maragos, LaRoy Reynolds and Josh Adams were out there, but not participating.  

4. The good news for Donnel Pumphrey was that he was back at practice after missing the last couple of days in OTAs. He needs every possible opportunity to try to prove his worth and he can’t do it on the sideline. He did show a little flash today. He caught a screen pass in the flat and made a quick and impressive move. A long way to go, but I’m interested to see what this kid does in the summer. 

5. Carson Wentz update time: He looks good. 

Still not involved in 11-on-11s, but he’s getting reps in 7-on-7s and individual drills. He had an up-and-down day as a passer, but at least he looks healthy. That’s the most important thing. 

6. The best offensive play of the day came from Wentz. Down in the red zone, the quarterback rocketed a ball into a tight window to a diving Nelson Agholor in the end zone. He beat an outstretched Ronald Darby. It was a great play all around. 

7. The second-best offensive play of the day came in 7-on-7s, when Nate Sudfeld dropped a beautiful deep ball into Dallas Goedert’s arms for a touchdown. It was a perfect pass over linebacker Asantay Brown, but give credit to Goedert too. He just seems to be able to get open. He made a handful of impressive plays today. 

8. Rough day for rookie corner Avonte Maddox. He was beaten twice in three plays for big gains. First by Markus Wheaton and then by Bryce Treggs. He’s going to take his lumps this offseason, but the Eagles don’t need to rely on him this season. 

9. Poor Darby got crushed on a screen pass when Jason Kelce got downfield to block. Darby is listed at 193 pounds, so Kelce has 102 pounds on him. It showed. The center completely obliterated the speedy corner. These aren’t contact drills, but it’s hard to slow down 295 pounds getting out front to block. 

Despite those last two plays, the defense won the day, although the offense rebounded from a really rough start. 

10. Still need to see more, but I’ve been impressed by Wheaton so far. He has looked good this spring and made a few more catches today. Now, it’s important to remember that he’s a veteran oftentimes going against more inexperienced players, but he’s already shown glimpses of being the player he was before injuries derailed his career. The good thing for Wheaton and the Eagles is that he isn’t needed to be a big part of the offense, but as a fifth receiver, he can give the Eagles some incredible depth. 

Remember, it was just a couple years ago that receiver was a sore spot for the Eagles. Now, they’re really deep with Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Agholor, Mack Hollins, Wheaton, Shelton Gibson, etc. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: This one came from our own Andrew Kulp as we watched impressively-fit punter Cameron Johnston boot a few: “I never realized this, but the punter is jacked.” 

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Eagles mandatory minicamp storylines: Welcome, Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett

Eagles mandatory minicamp storylines: Welcome, Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett

After a few weeks of voluntary workouts and practices, the Eagles are now required to be at the NovaCare Complex this week. 

The team will have its three-day mandatory minicamp from Tuesday through Thursday. All players are required to be at the minicamp and if a player skips, they’re subject to fines of up to over $84,000 if they miss all three days. 

There are also a bunch of other rules, as defined by the 2011 CBA. Practices can’t be any longer than 2½ hours, two-a-days are allowed on two of their three days and nothing can start before 7 a.m. and can’t go after 8:30 p.m. 

And as far as practices go, they’re still pretty light this time of year. No pads. Guys in shorts playing something that looks like football. It's still fun though. 

Here are some storylines to watch for the week: 

First glimpse of Michael Bennett 
The Eagles’ new defensive lineman was with the team for a part of spring workouts but hasn’t been there for OTAs. Some might be concerned about that, considering Bennett is learning a new defense. Don’t count Doug Pederson among them. 

“Are you worried about Michael Bennett?” Pederson said last week. “I’m not.”

Missing the voluntary practices isn’t an uncommon thing for the 32-year-old Pro Bowler, so the Eagles probably weren’t too upset to see him not show up. And Bennett is a veteran who will seemingly fit into what the Eagles do defensively. Bennett reported to the NovaCare Complex on Monday and even had fun during photos (see story)

But since the last time Philly reporters were around Bennett, felony charges were brought against him in Houston for allegedly injuring an elderly paraplegic woman at Super Bowl LI well over a year ago. Bennett’s camp has vehemently denied those claims. Originally, Bennett’s arraignment was scheduled for May 18, but it was pushed back to June 27, two weeks from Wednesday.

He'll be asked plenty about that pending case, as well as how he plans on catching up after missing time. 

Sproles returns after injury  
The only other guy who wasn’t at most of the OTAs was veteran running back Darren Sproles. The Eagles re-signed the 34-year-old to a one-year deal as the 2018 draft concluded. That made Sproles happy, it made Pederson happy and it definitely made fans happy. 

Sproles’ 2017 season ended early when he broke his arm and tore his ACL on the same play in the third game of the season. Sproles couldn’t end his career like that, so he’s back for what could possibly be one last run. 

The 12-year vet has been rehabbing from that torn ACL, so we’ll see where his progress is at practice this week by how much he’s able to participate. Even back in February, it seemed like he was on the comeback trail. 

Wentz continues to rehab 
The entire City of Philadelphia can’t seem to get enough videos of Carson Wentz during his rehab. During OTAs, the QB has been back on the field participating in individual drills and some competition drills, including 7-on-7s. It’s certainly encouraging. 

The Eagles have been sure to make it clear they are being cautious with Wentz and won’t put any timetables on his recovery, but Wentz has said Week 1 is his goal and he’s been confident he’ll be able to reach that goal. 

What we’ve seen this spring is certainly encouraging. 

Battle at nickel CB 
During this spring, the Eagles have already used Sidney Jones, De’Vante Bausby, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills in the nickel corner spot with the first team. On Monday, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin said the only guy who doesn’t really get lined up inside is Rasul Douglas and that’s just because of his body type. 

This is going to be one of the most fun battles of the summer and we’re already getting a glimpse at it. I’ll go ahead and say as well as Bausby has played, it’s going to be hard to keep Jones off the field. Eventually, I think it’ll be a combination of Mills, Darby and Jones on the field, but until Week 1, there’s still plenty of intrigue. 

Bausby has been the most interesting development of the spring. Not only do coaches really like him, but Bausby has been playing exceedingly well in practices, at least in the ones open to reporters. 

Battle at weakside linebacker 
Mychal Kendricks is gone, so there’s an open starting linebacker job. And that weakside job is a “wide open” competition, according to linebackers coach Ken Flajole. 

There are a few candidates: Corey Nelson, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry. All three bring something slightly different to the position, but all three should be good in coverage, an area in which Kendricks definitely struggled at times. 

Has a nice ring to it
The Eagles like it so they’re putting a ring … that pun is too terrible, even for me, to finish. The Eagles will get their Super Bowl rings in a private ceremony Thursday night. 

A little added incentive to get through the three-day minicamp.