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If you climbed up to the very top row of the stands on the west side of Citizens Bank Park and brought some binoculars with you and peered out onto the Eagles’ practice fields, what would you see?
If you were walking down Broad Street near Pattison and peeked through the arbor vitae onto the practice fields before Eagles security shooed you away, what would it look like?
If you rented out one of the apartments near Hartranft Street just north of the NovaCare Complex and snuck up to the roof and gazed just to the south, what would you learn about a Chip Kelly practice?
Not until May 13 will the media get to watch the Eagles practice, and not until late July or early August will fans get one of their few chances to see a training camp practice, but Kelly on Tuesday spoke for the first time in some detail about his unique practice regimen.
Kelly, as a first-year NFL coach, gets an extra minicamp, a pre-draft camp, and the Eagles are practicing Tuesday through Thursday on the grass fields at the NovaCare Complex.
Kelly, whose practices at Oregon were notoriously frenetic, said the pace on this level will be slower, simply because the roster is smaller. He said some drills are done at game speed, full speed, and they’re interspersed with slower drills that he calls teaching drills.
“I think it's a little bit slower,” Kelly said Tuesday. “We don't have the numbers that we had [at Oregon]. ... At the college level you have 105 players for practice. After the first game, that actually goes up [to 120]. In the National Football League, you have 53 on your roster, and you have eight other practice guys, [so] you have 61 guys available to practice.”
You know it’s a new regime when a DJ van is parked outside the NovaCare Complex, and anybody driving in the vicinity of the Eagles’ facility Tuesday afternoon could hear music blaring across the practice fields.
But the music Kelly likes blasting during sessions isn’t the biggest difference between his practices and traditional NFL practices.
The difference is tempo. Kelly said that not only are selected drills run at full-speed but also that players are constantly moving at full-speed between drills.
“What we want to do is get our work done,” he said. “We're not going to be out there for a long time [because] we don't practice as long as other teams. It's just we try to eliminate [dead time] and be as efficient as possible.
“There are two speeds in football. There is game speed and teach speed. If you're going to do something else at any other speed, why do it?
“We segment our practices in a certain manner that if we're going to have a full-team speed period, the next period after that is a teach period, because we know we can't continue to 35 minutes straight of all team. Even though you change what the situation is, there needs to be a break in there.
“So if we want our guys to understand how to play at game tempo, we have to kind of gear it like game tempo. So really, it's short bursts, get in, get out, get your work done, and let's go back to teach mode. Get in, get out, get your work done and get back to teach mode.”
The Collective Bargaining Agreement that the NFL hammered out with the NFLPA two years ago limits the length of time teams may practice, as well as the number of days per week teams may practice, the number of full-contact drills, and so on.
So Kelly figures the faster practice runs, the more his players can learn in a restricted length of time.
Even if that means receivers running a fly route and then finding his way back to the line of scrimmage for another snap 12 seconds later.
Sounds impossible, but that’s what Kelly wants.
“The opportunity for us is to get more snaps in practice,” he said. “So if you get more snaps in practice, you feel a lot more confident in what you're doing and how you're executing it. … If you want X amount of offense in a game plan, you have to practice a certain style to get X amount of plays in in practice during the week.”
Kelly said the up-tempo practice style doesn’t necessarily mean the Eagles will run no-huddle every snap.
“I think it's a real efficient way to practice,” he said. “For us, we practice a lot shorter than other people. We get our work done in a quicker amount of time. And that is part of the whole process that we're doing.
“Does that mean we're going to play the games like that? No. We certainly understand that. But it's a tool in our toolbox that if we have to dial it up, we feel comfortable in doing that.”