It’s pretty clear today is no ordinary day at the NovaCare Complex.
Doug Pederson found out when he walked in for his 10:30 a.m. press conference. That's when he saw about 50 reporters, many of whom were new faces, just the day after when the Eagles were initially scheduled to visit the White House before President Donald Trump canceled the event.
“Glad to see so many people for an OTA practice,” Pederson said as he stepped behind the lectern. “This is great.”
The next 8 1/2 minutes were mostly spent with Pederson being asked questions about the Eagles’ White House visit that wasn’t and the head coach trying to end the discussion.
“It’s over, it’s behind us, we’re moving on,” Pederson said.
The press conference began with a question about Pederson’s role in planning the visit to the White House.
“This is going to be a blanket statement and then I’m not going to discuss it further,” Pederson said.
“I was looking forward to going down, obviously. We did something last season that was very special. It’s a milestone here in the City of Philadelphia, our organization. I was looking forward to going down and being recognized as world champions. It is what it is. We’re here today, got an OTA practice. I’m focused on these next couple of days, getting through next week and onto training camp.”
The Eagles were disinvited to the White House by Trump on Monday night, less than 24 hours before their scheduled visit in Washington D.C. At the time, the statement from the White House said the Eagles disagreed with the president’s insistence that players stand proudly for the national anthem, and also cited the smaller delegation as a reason for the canceled visit.
On Tuesday, the White House released a new statement, saying the Eagles were only going to send a “small handful” of representatives. Reports later indicated that group might have included just two players. Pederson declined to say how many players were going to attend. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called it a “political stunt” by the Eagles.
Pederson on Wednesday was asked about that accusation.
“I’m not discussing it. It’s over,” Pederson said. “What you’ve seen and what you've heard is enough. I’m not discussing it. I’m not going to stand here and discuss it because we’ve got two OTA practices, I got a mandatory camp next week. I’ve got to focus on that.”
This is the first time anyone from the team has spoken in a real-life public setting since the White House canceled the visit Monday evening. The Eagles were originally supposed to have media availability Monday during the day, but it was pushed back to Wednesday.
Before Pederson’s press conference, the only public statement from the team came Monday night and didn’t even address the White House visit. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has not spoken publicly since.
Pederson was asked if it bothered him that he was the one answering these questions instead of the owner.
“No,” Pederson answered. “We’re united. We’re a team. Been that way since I’ve been here.”
Instead of going to the White House, the Eagles had a light OTA practice Tuesday, which means they’ll fit in all 10 OTA practices this spring. While the Eagles had other community-related events scheduled in Washington, the team elected to practice instead.
During that practice, Pederson said, Eagles players looked focused.
“We’re focused on today,” the head coach said about avoiding distraction. “We’re going to get a great practice in today, tomorrow, three days next week. And our goal is 2018 and that’s motivation enough.”