As rain fell at the NovaCare Complex, Matt Barkley dropped back and fired a pass over the middle toward wide receiver Josh Huff. Safety Ed Reynolds tried to close on the ball. And then they collided.
That was the last play Saturday afternoon (see training camp observations). That’s how the first training camp practice ended — with two rookies on the ground. It looked worse than it was. They stayed down for a while — Huff holding his midsection, Reynolds reaching for his leg — but they got up and walked off together. Crisis averted. Welcome to the NFL.
“I think I got my first training camp practice jitters out,” Reynolds joked. “I was just trying to make a play on the ball. I tried to pull up, and Josh Huff slipped and we got tangled up a little bit. I kind of kneed him in the ribs and he caught me on the side of my leg. Nothing serious.”
The Eagles took Huff in the third round of the 2014 draft and Reynolds in the fifth. Their best chance for playing time, at least initially, is probably on special teams. Jordan Matthews — a second-round selection — also spent time on special teams Saturday as a kick returner.
“It doesn’t really feel like the first day of camp because we went so hard in [OTAs] and minicamp and stuff like that … to be honest, the first day of training camp just feels like we’re back in motion,” Matthews said. “Getting back into it, of course there’s going to be a little dust you have to shake off from being away for a month or so, but everyone was confident and rolling.”
Compared to some of the other rookies, the expectations for Matthews are relatively high. He enters camp with a good shot to replace Jason Avant as the Eagles’ slot receiver. During the offseason, Matthews worked out with two of the best receivers in the NFL: Calvin Johnson and A.J Green.
“It’s about who can sustain and who can make it through the course of a season,” Matthews said. “That’s why I went to train with A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson -- to learn about longevity and learn about being a professional over a long period of time.
“Focus on the little things. Don’t think you can just come out here, practice and you’re going to be great. You have to come out here and have deliberate practice, focus on all the little things on the field. ... Make sure you get your recovery. Make sure you sleep. Don’t stay up all night. Make sure you watch what you eat. Training with Calvin, he was so deliberate on the things he ate [and] how much he stretched.”
Matthews made a few quality catches Saturday. Nick Foles fired a ball that looked beyond his reach, but Matthews stretched and pulled it in.
“The rookies are looking good,” Foles said. “They had a great offseason with us. I remember my rookie year, getting that four weeks off, five weeks off, that’s huge because you have such a long offseason. You’re going through the draft, you’re going through all that stuff. It’s probably the longest break you’ve had since — your whole life, really.”