For being Chip Kelly’s first full-contact practice, there wasn’t much hitting going on at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. In fact, there wasn’t any tackling at all. Other than the players wearing pads for the first time this summer, and the bells and whistles that only a stadium experience can offer, this practice wasn’t very different from what’s been going on at the NovaCare Complex the past few days.
Well, that and the fact that instead of a few hundred spectators, the Eagles opened their doors to tens of thousands. But while roughly 65,000 tickets may have been reserved for Sunday’s show, less than half that number actually made it to their seats. According to team president Don Smolenski, there were more like 30,000 in the building.
Yet even though Chip’s version of a live practice was a tad underwhelming, and fans didn’t quite pack the house to the organization’s estimates, I wouldn’t go so far as to say either aspect was a bad thing.
While there wasn’t much in the way of collisions per se, the offensive and defensive lines were doing battle in the trenches, nor did receivers and defensive backs shy away from contact. Obviously the Eagles aren’t going to tear each other apart – they have two joint practices with the New England Patriots next week plus four preseason games to look forward to for that.
And the fact that it wasn’t totally packed provided a slightly more intimate experience for fans – not on the level of NovaCare certainly, but then again instead of being spread across three fields, practice at the Linc is condensed to just the one. Add in the introductions of a large cast of Eagles alumni that was headlined by Brian Dawkins and A.J. Feeley Donovan McNabb, and it added that little something extra to help make the whole affair memorable.
For being a slightly smaller turnout, the crowd was still lively and into practice. They applauded as the players started taking the field (especially for Jeremy Maclin), roared for the alumni introductions, and cheered for all of the big plays. It’s only practice, so there was some down time, but there was enough enjoyment to be gained to make it a worthwhile experience for those in attendance.
It should be noted that some fans may have chosen to stay home due to concerns over the weather. It was an overcast day, but thankfully it didn’t start raining until after practice. Unfortunately once it did start coming down, the huge storm caused the cancellation of an event on the field where fans could catch a pass from an Eagles alumni in attendance. Bummer.
Don’t forget that tickets and parking are completely free. There are still four more open practices schedule, and whether you’re a veteran of training camp at Lehigh, or simply find yourself jonesing for a football fix as we count down the days until the real thing gets underway, you really can’t go wrong at these events. Chances are you’re not going to see anything over the top, but it’s better than not seeing anything at all.